For drivers across the United States, the Thanksgiving holiday period is an especially dangerous time. The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) reports that during this period in 2019, seven people in the state were killed in car accidents. Virginia motorists who plan to travel for the holiday this year may avoid a Thanksgiving car accident by driving safely and taking several precautions before driving.
Slow Down and Wear a Seat Belt
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that 9,378 people were killed because of speeding in 2018. Driving too fast for road conditions, even when not going faster than the designated speed limit, can also lead to serious injuries. Hazards, such as ice, wet leaves, or snow, on the pavement are best navigated by driving slowly and attentively. One of the main reasons why people speed is that they are running late. This Thanksgiving, drivers should leave early to account for busy roads, detours, and other delays that often occur during the holidays.
Another way that Virginia drivers can protect themselves this Thanksgiving is by wearing their seat belts. Out of the seven people who died in car accidents over the 2019 Thanksgiving holiday period, three were not wearing seat belts. According to the NHTSA, wearing seat belts reduces the risk of fatal injuries by 45 percent for drivers in passenger vehicles.
Do Not Drive Under the Influence of Drugs or Alcohol
During the Thanksgiving holiday weekend in 2019, 83 drivers in Virginia were charged with driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Nationwide, the NHTSA estimates that 30 people die in drunk driving crashes every day. Each year, there are more than 10,000 deaths caused by drunk driving. Although drunk driving is illegal in every state, approximately one-third of all traffic crash fatalities in the United States involve drunk drivers, according to the NHTSA.
Marijuana is another substance that drivers should avoid. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the number of self-reported marijuana users in the United States is increasing. Other than alcohol, marijuana is the substance most often linked to drugged driving. Driving while under the influence of alcohol or marijuana increases one’s risk of getting in a car accident. Those traveling for Thanksgiving should either refrain from drug and alcohol use, plan on sleeping over, call a rideshare service, or ensure that they have a designated driver.
Adults who are 18 years old and older need at least seven hours of sleep each night, according to the CDC. Those traveling this Thanksgiving should plan on getting at least seven hours of sleep before their trips. A driver who does not get enough sleep on a regular basis or on the night before their trip is at risk for a drowsy driving accident. A recent American Automobile Association (AAA) Foundation for Traffic Safety study reveals that drowsy driving is an even bigger safety issue than previously indicated by federal estimates. Out of the 700 crashes examined in the study, 9.5 percent involved drowsiness.
The AAA recommends traveling during the day, avoiding heavy foods, and taking turns driving with passengers if possible. The AAA manager of driver training cautions that short-term solutions, such as drinking coffee or rolling down the windows, are not effective. A driver who feels fatigued should pull into a rest stop for a 20-minute nap.
Plan Ahead and Stay Alert
Many accidents happen as drivers are adjusting their navigation systems, which is one of the biggest distractions for drivers due to the high demand for attention. When a driver is engaging with a navigation system, they are not only looking away from the road, but they are also diverting their attention from driving. According to the NHTSA, a driver doubles their risk of a distracted driving accident when they take their eyes off the road for just two seconds. A driver should enter the address into their navigation system and plan their route before leaving the house.
Also, drivers may wish to check for any potential issues with their chosen routes, such as construction detours or congested roads. Those who become lost in an unfamiliar area should not attempt to program the navigation system while driving, especially around the holidays. It is advisable for a driver to pull over to a safe location to enter an address or to look at a map.
Prepare for Dangerous Weather Conditions
Fall and winter are particularly dangerous times of the year for drivers. Snow, ice, rain, hail, fog, and other hazardous road conditions increases the risk of car accidents during the holiday months. Therefore, drivers should check the forecast before leaving, and plan for sudden changes in the weather. A driver should keep their gas tank full, use the heater for about 10 minutes every hour, and pull over to the side of the road as far as possible if experiencing car trouble.
Drivers should also slow down when traveling over the Thanksgiving weekend, particularly when roads are icy or visibility is reduced. Driving too fast for conditions is a recipe for disaster, especially for truck drivers. Approximately 23 percent of large truck accidents occur when truck drivers are traveling too fast for conditions, according to the Large Truck Crash Causation Study (LTCCS). The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recommends that commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers reduce their speeds by one-third on wet roads and by at least one-half on snow-packed roads.
Perform Necessary Car Maintenance
A driver should make sure that their vehicle is in good condition before getting on the road this Thanksgiving holiday season. This means checking the following:
- Windshield wipers
- Cooling system
Drivers should also ensure that all ice and snow is cleared from their vehicles to avoid creating blind spots for themselves or other drivers. It is advisable to have a winter car kit that includes the following:
- First aid kit
- Flashlight with batteries
- Extra winter clothing
- Jumper cables
- Food and water
- Prescription medications
How Do I Get Compensation After an Accident?
If someone is injured in a car accident in Virginia, they may sue the at-fault driver for damages, including the cost of medical bills, lost time from work, vehicular damage, and pain and suffering. However, in order to recover damages, a plaintiff must not have contributed to the accident in any way. Those who are even one percent responsible are barred from recovery under the contributory negligence rule. Also, a suit must be filed within two years from the date of the accident; therefore, an accident victim should contact a lawyer as soon as possible to see if they are eligible for compensation.
Virginia Beach Car Accident Lawyers Help Injured Victims Obtain Compensation After Collisions
If you were injured in a car accident, contact one of our Virginia Beach car accident lawyers right away. At East Coast Trial Lawyers, our experienced and dedicated legal team will fight to secure the maximum amount of compensation that is available in your case. For a free consultation, call us at 757-352-2237 or contact us online today. Located in Virginia Beach, Virginia, we serve clients throughout Chesapeake, Eastern Shores, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Suffolk, Virginia, as well as North Carolina and nationwide.