Road Safety: Practice Defensive Driving on New Year's Eve
8 ways to reduce your risk of ringing in the new year with a crash
The time around New Year's Eve is a risky time to be on the road. Last year, 80 people died in drunken driving crashes between 6 p.m. December 31 and 5:59 a.m. January 2, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Surely you wouldn’t drink and drive, but if you're planning to go somewhere by car, you still have to share the road with drivers who might. “New Year’s Eve is one of the most popular drinking days of the year,” says Bill Van Tassel, PhD, AAA’s manager of driver training.
If you’re venturing out, stay sharp and practice defensive driving with these tips from Van Tassel and other road safety experts.
Get noticed. Turn on your headlights and
use your turn signals. This lets other drivers and pedestrians know you're
nearby and what you're planning to do. If you need to send a message to
surrounding traffic, do so early and clearly.
“Humans don’t see all that well at night, which makes it critical for a driver to … be as visible as possible to other drivers,” says Van Tassel.
Related: 12 Tips for Safer Nighttime Driving
Prepare for evasive action. Assume that any motorist, no matter how steady their driving, might take an action that puts you at risk. As you're driving, think about what could go wrong — such as the car to your right veering into your lane — and develop a response plan. What would you do? Is there space on your left to move into? Van Tassel calls this being “visually vigilant.”
Keep your distance. Put as much distance as possible between you and all other moving vehicles. If you can, position yourself so that there isn't another vehicle occupying the lane next to yours. This will give you critical time and room to maneuver in case of an emergency.
Take it easy. If you encounter an erratic or aggressive driver, slow down to put even more space between the two of you. This is no time to challenge another driver. “At any time, the brake pedal will solve more problems than the accelerator,” says James Aubrey Solomon, program development and training director of defensive driving courses at the National Safety Council.
Report it. If you have a passenger with you, ask them to dial 911 and tell the operator a dangerous driver is in the area. “Never use the cellphone yourself, even if it is hands-free,” says Solomon. “You will be as impaired as the offender is.”
Decide not to drive, or drive home the next day. There's no rule saying you have to run the traffic gauntlet after ringing in the new year. If possible, take a taxi, Uber or public transportation. If driving yourself is your only option, consider staying at the party host's overnight or renting a hotel room. Then, drive home in the morning while everyone else is sleeping off their hangovers.
“It might raise the overall cost of the evening, but would cost way less than being involved in an alcohol-related collision, even if it’s the other driver who was the one impaired by alcohol,” says Van Tassel.
If you're the one throwing the party
Remember that if you serve alcohol to guests at your home and they leave and get into an accident, you could be held legally liable, according to the NHTSA. Serve plenty of food to minimize drinking on an empty stomach, and offer plenty of non-alcoholic beverages. If someone's had too much, do whatever you can to ensure he doesn't drink and drive, whether that means having him stay over or calling him (or her) a cab.
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