Updated: May 24
While over 700 traffic fatalities occur on the main winter holidays themselves, there are plenty of driving dangers throughout the last 6 weeks of the calendar year. The Covid-19 pandemic may mean that fewer people are on the road, but the stress of this year has people more distracted than ever.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), an estimated 400,000 people were injured due to distracted driving in 2018. Even without the added factors of 2020, people are typically more distracted during the holiday season. This year will be no different. Rather than focusing on the task of driving safely, motorists will be thinking about all of their other checklists, trying to multitask behind the wheel, rushing to wherever they have to go, and pushing through the fatigue of all the stress.
The irony is that with health at the forefront of everyone’s mind right now, far too many people are dismissive of the fact that car accidents are a leading cause of injury death. Football coach Chuck Pagano said, “If you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything.” Well, it’s hard to keep your health if you die in a car accident.
This may not be the cheery holiday kick-off message you expected. I honestly want your family to enjoy this holiday season and each one after it. Unfortunately, far too many holidays are permanently ruined because of tragedy. Your habits will influence your teen driver’s habits, and the cycle will continue to the next generation. Let’s work together on safe driving habits so that you and your family continue enjoying safe and happy holidays for years to come.
Just Say No to Distractions
When drivers take safety for granted and go on auto-pilot behind the wheel, they set themselves up for danger. Distracted driving is far too common because of the repetitive experience of driving lulls people into a sense of assumed safety. It’s important to consciously recognize this false sense of security and keep your focus on driving safely to your destination.
Distracted driving may be visual, manual, or cognitive. Coaching your teen on avoiding distractions will help you be mindful of avoiding them as well:
Make sure you have everything you intend to bring before you start the car.
Put the phone away and out of reach, or set it to Do Not Disturb.
Make lists before you head to your destination so that you are able to focus on the road and not your mental dialogue.
The holiday season is short. There is a lot to do over the course of just a few weeks, so it’s common to be distracted.
Better Planning Makes for Safer Driving
The best way to avoid distracted driving, especially throughout the holiday season, is to be more organized in general. How often do you find yourself trying to cram too many errands into a short amount of time? How many last-minute items do you need to go get? How often are you beating yourself up over something you forgot?
Invest in a planner, even if only for these last several weeks of the year, and stick to it. Plan your shopping, events, errands, and commitments for the rest of the year, and then give yourself enough time to accomplish everything. Good planning will help you know how much time you need to allocate to a task, including how much time you need to allow for driving, so that the entire process can be stress-free and safe.
This habit will not only make you a safer driver, but it will help you provide the example your teen driver needs in order to understand how good organization leads to overall safety. Even as you ramp up your own safe driving skills, remember that not everyone on the road is doing the same. Coach your teen to practice defensive driving at all times to avoid other distracted drivers.
If your stress level is through the roof heading into the holidays, pay attention to how you might be affecting your young driver. Take a deep breath, and then check out these resources for parents with teen drivers. You can teach safe driving skills during the holidays, even during a pandemic:
Download A FREE copy of the Safe Driving Coach: Parents Guide, 5 Solutions to Common Teen Driving Mistakes.
Sign up for the Parent’s Survival Guide for New Teen Drivers online course for parents who want to know how to better coach their teens how to drive!