Seize the Day, Save the Season

DeAnn Crane

Many crashes occur during the holiday season, when the roads are particularly crowded with travelers. We shop for those perfect gifts, set out to see relatives and drive to and from festive events. There is so much to do, and we can lose our focus.

Recently, while out shopping, I experienced this very thing. Someone darted out in front of oncoming traffic in a bid to make a green light. In that moment, that individual not only put his own life at risk but the lives of others all around him in jeopardy, too.

Driving conditions can change quickly. Whether it’s heavy traffic, inclement weather, a work zone, a road closure or that aggressive driver pushing the limit, staying alert while driving will ensure you can enjoy all the season has to offer without incident.

More than 3,000 people die in distraction-related crashes every year, according to research from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Last year, 95,241 crashes in Texas involved distraction in the vehicle or driver inattention, according to the Texas Department of Transportation. That’s about 261 crashes every day.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recently surveyed more than 2,000 drivers nationwide. Two-thirds engaged in one or more distracting activities while driving during a 30-day period. The study also revealed that smartphone apps were a major distraction for contractors, freelancers, parents – and no doubt for your employees, friends and loved ones, too.

While crashes can happen any time of the year, dangers increase during the holiday season. Here are some safety tips to share:

  • Set your GPS device and pick a holiday music playlist before you depart so you’re not distracted while driving
  • Silence your phone and appoint a co-pilot to send and receive text messages
  • Check weather conditions and store hours before you leave the office or your home
  • Slow down and allow more following distance when the roads are wet
  • Be sure to get enough sleep to avoid fatigue and drowsy driving
  • Share driving on long trips and allow for extra time to account for delays on your journey

Stress can affect workplace performance and driving performance, often leading to aggressive driving behaviors and not following the rules of the road. How often have you seen drivers who fail to use blinkers when changing lanes or fail to yield the right of way at intersections? Address all forms of impairment with resources from the National Safety Council, and promote mental health and wellbeing.

Help take some of the stress out of the holidays by continuing to prioritize safety through training and education. Share a few of these reminders on your intranet or while delivering your next safety talk:

  • Sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for about 5 seconds. A vehicle traveling at 55 mph will cover the length of a football field in that time. What will you miss? A stop sign? A bicyclist or pedestrian?
  • Losing two hours of sleep has a similar effect as consuming three beers and can result in impaired driving. When you’re tired, your attention span and ability to react quickly diminishes.

Spend a little extra time planning your travel route. Pick places to stop, rest and make necessary calls. All these little things can add up to big safety gains. No one wants a crash to ruin the holiday season.

– DeAnn Crane is a program manager with the National Safety Council