Four Holiday Driving Hazards to Avoid

Along with fun and festivity, the holiday season brings unique driving hazards and challenges. Here are some tips to help you stay safe on your holiday travels!

Tie Trees Securely

If you’ve ever driven behind a Christmas tree-toting car, you’ve probably wondered just how well that tree is tied down. Records of how many Christmas trees fall off cars and how many crashes they cause are not kept, but vehicle-related road debris is estimated to cause more than 25,000 crashes per year.

A German automobile club conducted crash tests showing that a Christmas tree tied to the roof of a car traveling at just 31 miles per hour can fly forward with enough force to go through the rear window of another car, or seriously injure a pedestrian if the car stops suddenly. If that doesn’t sound too bad, check out the crash test video.

You don’t want to cause an accident or lose the tree you chose so carefully, so make sure you’re prepared to take it home with you!

  • If you’re purchasing a tree from a tree lot, they’ll likely have twine available for you to use, and may even tie your tree down for you.
  • If you’re heading to a remote location, you’ll need to bring sturdy rope or twine and tie down your tree yourself.
  • Use multiple pieces of twine or rope rather than one long piece, so that if one portion fails, the rest will not be compromised.
  • If you’ll be traveling a long distance or at high speeds, securing the tree from more than one direction using ratchet straps is your best bet.

Don’t forget a tarp to prevent the tree from scratching up the paint on your roof!

Don’t Drive Drunk… Or Hungover

You probably already know the dangers of drunk driving, but you may not have considered how that hangover the morning after your holiday party could affect your driving abilities.

Two studies released earlier this month found that the effects of heavy drinking on driving continue even after blood alcohol concentration has returned to zero. When hungover, participants in the study had a level of driving impairment similar to someone with a BAC of .05%.

This news is consistent with everything we already know about how distraction and fatigue affect driving ability. Whether or not you were drinking the night before, always assess your mental and physical condition before driving. If you’re not fit to drive, it may be best to postpone your plans or ask someone else to drive.

Also remember to be on alert for erratic drivers who may be impaired, particularly during the early hours of weekend mornings.

Think Twice Before Idling

You may not think anything of starting your car and heading back inside while the windshields defrost and the cabin gets warm. After all, it’s just for a couple of minutes, and it saves you some time. But this habit could put you at risk of a ticket - or worse, getting your car stolen!

“Warm Up” Thefts

The National Crime Prevention Council warns that leaving your car unattended while it warms up is an open invitation for car thieves to hop in and drive away. It’s unclear how common these “warm-up” thefts really are since they aren’t tracked nationally, but we don’t think it’s worth taking the risk!

Anti-Idling Laws

According to the Environmental Defense Foundation, 31 states and dozens of counties and cities in the United States have enacted some kind of anti-idling legislation. Some laws include time limits for idling whether or not the driver is present, often with even shorter limits in school zones. Other laws prohibit leaving a running car unattended for any length of time.

Be sure to check the laws in your state, county, and city - you could actually receive a ticket for this!

Is It Even Necessary?

The Environmental Defense Foundation also reports that modern engines warm twice as quickly while moving rather than idling. Driving also helps the cabin warm up more quickly. Instead of letting your car idle, drive gently and avoid excessive revving for the first few minutes of your journey. Consider scraping the ice off your windows as soon as you are able to, and departing.

Enjoy Holiday Decorations Safely

Many people make it a tradition to tour their local light displays, but it’s important not to let the pretty lights distract you from the task of driving. Whether you’re driving or on foot, make sure you pay attention to the road all around you - there’s a good chance that others on the road won’t be as attentive as they should be!

Drivers should be on alert for pedestrians who are also out enjoying the holiday spirit! Darkness will make it much harder for you to spot them. And before you pull out your smartphone and snap a picture of that light setup you’re admiring, make sure you pull over in a safe, legal place.

If you’ll be walking, grab a flashlight before heading out, or wear reflective clothing to make yourself more visible in the dark. When crossing streets, don’t assume that drivers have seen you and will stop!

If you’ve decided to decorate your car for the holidays, be sure that your chosen adornments are safe and legal. Make sure any wreaths, bows, or reindeer antlers are securely attached and don’t use any electrical decorations during wet weather. If decorations impede the driver’s vision, could be confused with the red and blue lights on an emergency vehicle, or pose any other safety hazard, you could get stuck with a hefty fine, so consider checking with your local police department beforehand.

Have a safe and happy holiday season!