Common Factors in Crashes During the Winter Holidays
Whether you’re staying home and hosting guests or driving across the country to be with family, you are more likely to be involved in a car accident over the holidays due to:
- Increased traffic. Last-minute shopping, public festivals, and an influx of relatives keep the roads near significant cities moving around the clock. People are in cars more often and for extended periods during the holidays, and the risk of collisions increases through the sheer number of cars and drivers on the street.
- Poor road conditions. No one can predict the weather in Massachusetts, even in the middle of winter. It’s not uncommon to see snow, ice, rain, hail, sleet, or high winds in the days before New Year’s, and all can cause dangerous driving conditions. People traveling for the holidays may set out in weather they would typically not brave for fear of missing out on good times with the family. Local governments or road maintenance companies could be liable for accidents caused by unsalted roads, potholes, or high piles of snow that obstruct the view of oncoming cars.
- Impaired driving. Drunk driving increases significantly during Christmas and New Year’s Eve. People may have an extra glass of wine with dinner or go to a party to see old friends and get behind the wheel without realizing how much alcohol they’ve consumed. Additionally, people often use illegal drugs or prescription medications during the holidays to reduce or cope with stress.
- Shorter days. Nighttime driving is dangerous at any time of year. However, when combined with slippery highways and/or congested city streets, it's particularly hazardous.
- Constant deliveries. Delivery trucks and vans come and go daily in December, bringing packages from online retailers, groceries, postal mail, and food from caterers. Some truck operators may not have valid commercial licenses, and those that do may be unfamiliar with local roads or cause a crash while looking for an address.
- Out-of-town drivers. You might be very familiar with Framingham roads, but relatives visiting from other states might be unaccustomed to roundabouts or unusual traffic patterns, meaning a higher chance of a collision.
- Fatigue. The holidays demand a lot and often force people to forgo sleep or downtime. It’s no surprise that drowsy driving increases over the end-of-the-year holidays, decreasing driver reaction times and making drivers less aware of road hazards in time to avoid a crash.
- Vehicle maintenance problems. Regular vehicle maintenance is vital to road safety, but drivers may forgo new tires or oil changes around the holidays. They may not have time to put their car in the shop, or they may choose to use the money for holiday shopping. If a lack of proper care or a defective car part causes a tire blowout or faulty brakes, drivers and passengers may have a claim against a negligent party or auto manufacturer.
Holiday Crashes Can Happen Anywhere
The holidays are usually a busy time for everyone, and drivers are often thinking about family celebrations and shopping lists rather than the road ahead. Any type of distraction can lead to poor driving, including talking on a cellphone, texting, or using a GPS device.
Drivers often cause winter holiday car accidents in the following areas:
- Malls and shopping centers. Even with the growing popularity of online shopping, malls and shops are packed at all hours around the holidays. Most retailers make at least a third of their yearly sales between October and December, while grocery stores push specialty foods for entertaining. The roads around any shopping venue are typically packed with cars, increasing the odds of rear-end accidents.
- Parking lots. Parking lots and multi-level garages are a perfect storm of accident hazards: distractions, obstructions, cars in reverse, and a high concentration of pedestrians. If school is out for winter break, children and teenagers are especially likely to be hurt in parking lots by drivers searching for a parking space or backing out at high speed.
- Highways. Highways see increased traffic and high speed limits, making accidents more likely and injuries more severe. US-20, I-90, and I-95 are particularly deadly, but any highway carrying traffic to and from Boston could be packed with holiday travelers.
- Downtown streets. City streets that play host to winter events, parades, and festivals become even busier during the holiday season. Speeds may be slower in downtown areas, but congestion and distractions can cause fender-benders and pedestrian accidents on downtown streets.
If you or someone you love suffered injuries in a car crash, you may have to fight with an insurance provider to get the payment you deserve. Insurance companies typically offer settlements far below what victims need to pay for their medical bills, vehicle repair costs, lost time from work, and other accident-related costs. The most important thing to do at this time is to seek out an attorney who offers no-obligation consultations and represents you on a contingency-fee basis.