Why Is New Year’s Eve an Especially Dangerous Day to Drive?

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According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 40 percent of fatal car accidents that occur between Christmas and New Year’s Eve involve drunk drivers. A statistic from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is just as concerning. The agency reports that more than 50 people are killed on in alcohol-related car accidents on New Year’s Eve alone.

However, drunk drivers are not the only hazard facing motorists, passengers, and pedestrians on New Year’s Eve. Combine cocktails served at late-night parties and gatherings, increased holiday traffic, and blistering winter weather, and you can see why driving on New Year’s Eve can be so dangerous.

This discussion explores why New Year’s Eve is considered one of the most dangerous days of the year for driving. Suggestions are given to protect drivers who travel on New Year’s Eve.

Drunk Driving

According to one source, more than half of motor vehicle accidents on New Year’s Day involve a driver with a high blood alcohol concentration (BAC). Because most of the celebration happens around midnight, a high BAC is often related to drinking from the night before.

The NHTSA explains that alcohol and other impairing drugs diminish the critical skills one needs to safely operate a motor vehicle. Alcohol slows reaction time, blurs vision, alters one’s ability to distinguish colors on road signs and signals, and clouds judgement.

Although in Maryland, a BAC of 0.08 percent of higher can bring a driving under the influence (DUI) charge, it only takes a single drink to cause some level of impairment.

Preventing drunk driving on New Year’s Eve. Obviously, the easiest way to avoid a drunk driving accident, along with steep penalties and hefty fines, is to celebrate at home.

If you go out and drink this New Year’s Eve, you have a few options to avoid a DUI. When celebrating with a group, decide on a designated driver who will stay sober and make sure everyone gets home safely.

Alternatively, you can call a rideshare service such as Uber or Lyft, or a cab, for a safe and sober ride home. Just remember that New Year’s Eve is one of the busiest nights for rideshare companies. If you do not want to be stranded at your party until the wee morning hours, call and schedule a ride in advance.

As always, if you notice a friend trying to drive home after drinking, take their keys and call them a cab.

Bad Weather

Drivers in this part of the country are likely to encounter ice, snow, and slippery, slush-covered roads over the New Year’s Even holiday and throughout the winter months.

The same is true for the nearly 70 percent of the nation’s population who reside in areas that see snow each winter. Every year, an estimated 150,000 car accidents occur on icy roadways, leaving more than 116,000 people with injuries.

Sleet and snow impact driving in many ways. Drivers can find their visibility is obstructed in a blizzard. Slick roads increase the chance of spinouts and collisions. Freezing temperatures can affect a vehicle’s performance as well.

Winter safe driving tips for New Year’s Eve. Before you set out for New Year’s Eve, make sure your vehicle is ready to take on the freezing weather and snow. Your tires should be properly inflated, and your battery charged.

Always drive with at least a half a tank of gas and emergency supplies on board. Warm blankets, coats, and gloves, along with a flashlight, fresh water, and non-perishable foods can be lifesavers if your car breaks down in the cold.

If you are driving on ice-covered roads or find yourself in a snowstorm, turn on your headlights, reduce your speed, and increase the following distance between you and the car ahead of you. If you get caught in a skid, remove your foot from the accelerator, do not hit the brakes, and steer away from the skid until you regain traction.

Increased Traffic

Holidays mean more people on the road, especially one like New Year’s Eve, a universal occasion celebrated by many people in one way or another. Travel, parties, and other festivities bring more people out on the roads. Increased traffic equates to an increase in driving-related car accidents.

Planning ahead is key on New Year’s Eve. Fatal traffic accidents increase anywhere from 5 to 10 percent on Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and other major holidays. To avoid the added risks that come with increased holiday traffic, plan your trip in advance.

If you can, travel during the day and give yourself plenty of extra time to get where you are going. You will be less inclined to speed or drive aggressively if you are not running late. Check your go-to traffic app for updates on accidents, detours, and severe weather before departing.

General Safe Driving Tips for Holiday Travel

Here are some additional safe-driving tips to prevent accidents on New Year’s Eve and all year long.

Avoid aggressive driving. Speeding is just one example of an aggressive driving behavior that increases the chance of a car accident. Tailgating, brake-checking, and turning without signaling are a few other signs of aggressive driving. Not only can these dangerous behaviors contribute to serious roadway collisions, but also they can bring costly tickets and fines if you are pulled over by law enforcement.

Avoid distracted driving. Anytime you take your eyes off the road or your hands off the wheel for even a few seconds, you lose the ability to safely control your vehicle. Resist the urge to send that text, apply your makeup, or eat your lunch behind the wheel. These innocent tasks can become deadly distractions for a driver operating a 3,000-pound passenger vehicle.

Avoid drowsy driving. For many people, New Year’s Eve parties keep them out later than usual. However, they may not realize that driving while overtired is just as risky as drinking and driving. In fact, fatigue affects the mind and body in many ways similar to alcohol.

If you find yourself yawning frequently, having trouble keeping your eyes open, or veering out of your lane while driving, pull over as soon as possible. Call someone to pick you up or stay put until you feel recharged and safe to drive. The safest option is to stay put where you are and hit the road in the morning.

New Year’s Eve is a fun time for saying good-bye to the old year and ringing in a fresh start. But if you plan to drive this holiday, consider taking precautions to avoid a motor vehicle accident. If you are injured in a preventable collision, contact a car accident lawyer to learn your rights and responsibilities under the law.

Baltimore Car Accident Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Represent Clients Injured in Maryland DUI Accidents

The reality is even if you make good decisions this New Year’s Eve, other drivers may not be quite as responsible. If you or someone you care about is injured in a car accident caused by an impaired driver, you are urged to contact the Baltimore car accident lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton. We will assist you with the claims process and help you receive the financial compensation for which you are entitled. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online.

Our offices are conveniently located in BaltimoreColumbiaGlen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, where we represent clients throughout Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel CountyCarroll CountyHarford CountyHoward CountyMontgomery CountyPrince George’s CountyQueen Anne’s CountyMaryland’s Western CountiesSouthern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of CatonsvilleEssexHalethorpeMiddle RiverRosedale, Gwynn OakBrooklandvilleDundalkPikesvilleParkvilleNottinghamWindsor MillLuthervilleTimoniumSparrows PointRidgewood, and Elkridge.