Tis the Season for Crazy.
We all know that the holidays bring out a special kind of crazy in parking lots and highways leading to malls all over the country. Men, women, teenagers… so many people lose their ever-loving minds in pursuit of the holiday deal. Fisticuffs have been known to break out over parking spaces and the last set of cashmere gloves.
You can’t change the course of stressed-out shoppers during the holidays. But you can protect yourself and your vehicle when you venture out into the hinterlands of consumerville. So many venues are busier during the holiday season; not just the mall. Also, consider the grocery stores, restaurants, and post office parking lots as places with a high potential for accidents.
Park like a boss
First, shop before the sun goes down as much as possible, especially when you’re going solo. If that’s not possible, park as close as you can to the entrance and under a light. And avoid parking next to large vans and trucks, especially those without windows.
Second, stop before you bolt into the store and look at your surroundings. What landmark are you parked near? Are there directional signs nearby?
Third, back in or pull through when parking as often as possible. You’re a sharper, more alert driver when you’re already in drive mode; when getting in “cold” to leave, more things can go wrong. If you’re distracted, tired, or stressed, and your car is already backed into a space, you’ll be able to pull out with better visibility than if you had parked head in.
Safeguard yourself and the gifts you just purchased
Pay attention to your surroundings while walking to and from your car: walk “with purpose” (find your inner swagger), and put down your phone. Have your keys ready as you approach the car, and get yourself and your packages and children inside quickly, then lock the doors immediately.
Speaking of locking up, double check your windows, sunroof, and doors before you go inside. This will keep thieves and other criminals with intent to harm out of your car. Hide everything in sight – even mobile phone chargers – by locking it in the trunk, console, or otherwise stash them out of sight. Don’t think anyone is fooled by that blanket you have in the back seat covering it up.
Watch out for ragey drivers
It’s a little too ironic, to quote Alannis Morrisette, that the holiday season often brings out the worst behaviors on the road. More traffic, especially on the weekends, more stress, and more holidays parties to attend means that people are – shall we say, Scrooge-ier?
When encountering inconsistent, impolite, or flat-out dangerous drivers, get out of the way. Give them a wide berth, because you don’t want any part of that. Don’t chicken fight them or pretend not to see their wild gesticulating. Find your inner North Star and let them go.
Have a plan for imbibing and getting home–and hope that others do, too
According to statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in December 2015, drunk driving crashes resulted in 805 deaths in the US. On average, every day, 28 people in the United States die in motor vehicle crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver. If you know you’ll be drinking wine/mimosas/sangria at a holiday party, create a plan for your transportation home. Download the apps to your phone for Uber and Lyft, and put the number of your local cab company in your address book. And if you find your self unexpectedly partaking, change your plan to a safe one by calling for a ride, or even stay the night; you’re never too grown up for a slumber party.
Even if you’re not drinking, the number of drivers partaking in alcohol or drugs increases during the holidays. Watch out for drivers who seem to be weaving, driving too slowly or too fast, or cutting across lanes. Your life is important.
Because so many party-goers don’t typically consume a large volume of beer, wine, or spirits on an average week, New Year’s Eve is often called “amateur night.” Many drivers on the road may be unaware that they are severely impaired when they take the wheel.
Automakers hope that lane departure and assist technology will help keep drivers safe. Photo: Audi
Stay focused and alert
There’s drinking and driving, and there’s I’ve-eaten-too-much-turkey-and-pie driving. At the end of a long day of celebrating, you’re likely to be tired and slightly full and sleepy. Add stress, hazardous road conditions, and kids hopped up on candy canes, and you’re riding on a powder keg and giving off sparks. (Extra credit if you can name that song.)
Don’t forget to get enough sleep – those who sleep 8 hours or more are statistically less likely to be involved in a crash, per a study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. You know that afternoon lull when you feel like you could take a nap quite happily? That’s another time frame in which you’ll want to be careful about driving.
Put your phone in your purse, in the back seat. At the least, don’t look at it. Use your car’s navigation system or another passenger to give you directions, and please don’t text and drive. It can always wait.
And always cover the basics
In general, it’s a good idea to ensure that your tires are properly inflated and you have a full tank of gas. Keep handy a snow scraper and brush, a flashlight, blankets, jumper cables, a shovel, a bag of sand, and flares or emergency triangles, especially if you live in a cold climate area.
Give yourself the gift of awareness and safety. Happy holidays!