Travel safety advocates at AAA report there will be 95 million people traveling more than 50 miles or more from home over the holidays this year. That’s a substantial increase of travelers compared to last year. Only one will have the luxury of a magical sleigh powered by reindeer. Some will board a plane, train or bus. But many more – about 89 percent – will pile into the car.
In fact, the number of people who are getting behind the wheel this season is up for the seventh year in a row. A huge part of that has to do with the fact that gas prices are at an all time low – down to an average of $2.20 a gallon from $3.50 just three years ago. In fact, gas prices for motorists in the Southeast are the lowest they’ve been in six years. Unemployment is shrinking, and that means more people have disposable income. That means a bigger travel budget, and many of them are springing for a warm holiday getaway in South Florida.
That’s going to mean more drivers and higher risks on Florida roads. People are rushing to finish holiday chores, head out to parties and drive across state to see relatives or take advantage of the time off for a getaway. That’s why the holidays are the No. 1 most dangerous travel period of the year.
Christmas and New Year’s Eve rank among the most perilous, not only for the sheer volume of traffic, but also heavy consumption of festive alcoholic drinks. On Christmas, a huge percentage of employers grant workers time off – regardless of religious affiliation. The majority of traffic crashes associated with this holiday occur between the afternoon of Christmas Even and the evening of Christmas Day, the American Safety Council reports. And on New Year’s Eve, which is notorious for its alcohol-fueled celebrations, parties are more likely to drink and then drive late into the wee hours. Nearly half of all fatal car accidents that occur on Dec. 31st and Jan. 1st of each year are related to impaired driving.
The good news for Floridians is we generally don’t have the hassle of grappling with poor road conditions, such as snow, ice and sleet. But we do have a considerable number of bicyclists and pedestrians – which many northern drivers may not be accustomed to watching out for, particularly this time of year. What’s more, Florida recently ranked worst in the nation for “Careless Drivers” by research group Car Insurance Comparisons. This ranking does make sense when you consider the bicyclist and pedestrian fatality rates are considered in the calculations. Florida has been named the most dangerous place for cyclists by the League of American Bikers and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
What this tells us is that many victims of careless driving, drunk driving, speeding and other traffic offenses are not even the ones behind the wheel, and many of those may well be tourists and visiting relatives too.
Those taking to the road must be sober, alert, rested and cautious. Those taking longer trips should make a point to have their vehicles checked for worn tires, depleted windshield wipers and engine performance. Serious crashes can occur while vehicles are stalled out on the shoulder, especially at night.
Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights. Now serving Orlando, West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie and Fort Lauderdale.
Easier Holiday Travel Tips, Nov. 25, 20915, South Florida Times
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Shively v. BMW – Defective Auto Lawsuit Alleges Failure to Disclose, Nov. 23, 2015, West Palm Beach Car Accident Lawyer Blog