A motor vehicle accident over the holidays often seems even more tragic. Instead of spending a joyful time around a Christmas tree or dinner table, loved ones may be spending days around a hospital bed while a family member suffers from injuries.

You probably see warnings and public service announcements about safe driving over the holidays, and many jurisdictions are holding sobriety checkpoints. Nevertheless, the risk is still there, and if you plan to be on the road anytime between now and the new year, you would be wise to use extra caution.

Keep your eyes open

Weather is a usual suspect in winter accidents. New Jersey weather conditions can deteriorate rapidly, especially when the temperatures drop at night. The U.S. Department of Transportation reports that about 15 percent of accidents happen during ice or snow events, resulting in over 1,300 deaths annually. If you can avoid driving in bad weather, do so. However, slowing down, leaving room to stop and remaining alert may reduce the chances of an accident. Poor weather conditions may multiply the danger of any of the following common holiday driving hazards:

  • Impairment: From now through New Year’s Day, the rate of fatal accidents involving alcohol nearly triples.
  • Distraction: Between the hustle and stress, flashing holiday decorations, and the lure of electronic devices, it is easy to become the victim of a distracted driver.
  • Out-of-towners: Whether they are focused on their GPS or making sudden turns across three lanes of highway, a driver unfamiliar with the area may be the hazard you aren’t expecting.
  • Drowsiness: The consequences of too much partying and too little sleep led to over 800 deaths in traffic accidents each year.

In fact, most serious and fatal accidents do not occur on the holiday itself but on the days before and after the holiday. While you may not be able to control other drivers, you can be aware of your own safe driving and avoid those situations that may make you a risk to yourself and others.

If the unthinkable happens and you or your loved ones become the victim of a negligent or reckless driver, you will likely feel as though your world is coming down around you. Seeking help from every available resource for your medical, financial and legal needs may help you move forward from the tragedy with a positive outlook for the future.