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While goodwill and cheer flow this holiday season, keep in mind a destructive hallmark of this time of year: car accidents. Statistics show an increase in collisions during Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s.

Car Crash Statistics During the Holidays

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there are generally more car crash fatalities during the holidays than non-holidays. For example, in 2017, the average amount of fatalities during major holidays was 119 per day compared to 102 per day at other times of the year. 

Texas Department of Transportation data for 2019 shows 35 fatal crashes and 37 fatalities during the Thanksgiving holiday. During Christmas and New Years combined, there were 27 fatal crashes and 30 fatalities in 2019. 

Of course, not all crashes involve fatalities. For the 2019 holiday season, the National Safety Council predicted 13,100 nonfatal medically consulted injuries resulting from crashes during Christmas.

Contributing Factors in Holiday Season Car Accidents

The number of increased holiday accidents stems from a variety of circumstances that arise during festive times of the year. Here are some of the most common reasons for an uptick in holiday season accidents.

Increased Traffic 

Overall, there are more cars on the road during the holidays. Increased traffic leads to more opportunities for collisions. During Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s, more people are out shopping and running errands related to the holidays. The chances of being in the car more often and for longer periods of time are also higher during the holidays as people visit family and friends.

Stressed, Distracted Driving 

While the holidays are a time of celebration, they can also be stressful for many people. The expectations surrounding attending events and buying gifts can lead to impatient driving and rushing to arrive at destinations. This can cause distracted driving, leading to failure to follow the rules of the road, resulting in collisions. According to the Centers for Disease Control, distracted driving increases the chances of a motor vehicle crash.  

Increased Drunk Driving 

As people celebrate the holidays and some drink alcohol, there is an increase in drunk driving that can lead to accidents. According to the NHTSA, drunk driving is more prevalent during the holidays. In 2018, during New Year’s and Christmas, there were 285 drunk-driving-related fatalities. Drinking alcohol has been shown to impair a person’s coordination and decision-making ability.

Fatigued Driving

The demands of the holiday season, including errands, shopping, decorating and entertaining, can be draining. This can lead to less sleep, resulting in fatigue. According to the National Safety Council, you’re three times more likely to get in a car crash if you’re fatigued. Driving while drowsy is like driving drunk. Your ability to spot hazards and react quickly is limited.

Visiting Drivers Unfamiliar with Roads 

People visiting friends and family in cities and towns that are new to them have a higher chance of becoming involved in a collision. When you’re distracted trying to find your way, for instance, that can lead to an accident. You may also not be familiar with the local traffic flow and customs. 

Failure to Maintain Vehicles 

In an effort to afford the holidays with all the trimmings, some car owners may skip regular maintenance. This can be disastrous when it comes to vital car upkeep tasks such as brake and tire inspection. A blowout on the highway from worn-out tires or the inability to stop correctly due to failing brakes can put the lives of the driver and other drivers and passengers in jeopardy. Proper car maintenance is important at any time of year. 

Dangerous Driving Conditions 

In many parts of the United States during the holidays, stormy conditions involving snow, ice, sleet, and wind lead to dangerous driving conditions. The many events held during the holidays prompt people to travel in dangerous conditions that they might not venture out into otherwise. Rather than travel during a storm, it’s safer to just stay home until the weather is more agreeable.

Most Dangerous Roads to Drive on in Austin During the Holidays

I-35 and Other Highways 

With more people on the highways during the holidays and high-speed limits, accidents are generally more serious when they occur. As a matter of fact, I-35 is one of the most dangerous highways to travel on during the holidays. According to data gathered by ValuePenguin from the NHTSA between 2015-2018, I-35 is among the five deadliest roads to drive during Thanksgiving and Christmas. Other Austin highways to use caution on while driving during the holidays includes Mopac and Highways 71 and 183.

Near Shopping Centers 

The need for gifts and items for entertaining means that shopping centers are usually bustling during the holiday season. With traffic congestion at an all-time high near shopping outlets and in parking lots and garages, it’s more likely that you’ll find yourself in an accident. Parking lots have the added element of pedestrians. To avoid an accident outside a shopping center this holiday season, make sure to pay careful attention as a driver, and a pedestrian. 

Busy shopping centers and malls in the Austin area where it’s important to be hypervigilant when driving include Domain, Arboretum, and Barton Creek Square Mall.

Downtown Streets 

Downtown streets become even busier and congested during the holiday season. The many distractions can lead to dangerous driving conditions. While even long-time residents may have problems navigating the busy streets, visiting drivers unfamiliar with the one-way streets can add an additional safety issue. 

This holiday season use caution as you navigate the streets of downtown Austin. Pay particular attention while making your way along streets such as Congress, Sixth Street, and Cesar Chavez.

DC Law Can Help

If you’re a victim of a traffic collision during the holiday season and find yourself injured by a holiday driver’s negligence or fault, contact DC Law. Our skilled personal injury attorneys can assess the situation and determine if you are entitled to file a case to recover damages. DC Law specializes in getting justice for individuals involved in car accidents, rear-end collisions, stop sign accidents, and more.