Special to The Dallas Examiner
Whether it’s making a “happy holidays” phone call from behind the wheel, rushing to the next party or indulging in some rum eggnog before hitting the road, Parkland Health physicians warn travelers to be careful this holiday season.
Driving when you’re tired, impaired or distracted is always dangerous. Add in the end of Daylight Saving Time, low visibility, the potential for wet or icy conditions and the pressures that come with the holiday season, and this may be one of the most dangerous times to be on the road.
“It’s important to stop and rest before you head out, minimize distractions inside the vehicle and slow down – especially if you’re traveling after sunset,” said Jeffery Metzger, MD, chief of Emergency Services at Parkland and associate professor of Emergency Medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center. “When it’s dark, you can’t tell if you’re driving on a dry road or if you’re coming up on black ice. Too many times people are in a hurry and instead of attending a holiday party they’re making an unplanned trip to the trauma center.”
During last year’s holiday season, 518 patients were treated in Parkland’s Emergency Department as a result of a car or motorcycle crash, between Nov. 1, 2021, through Jan. 2, 2022.
“Although we don’t know the exact cause of each crash, the number of visits would validate that either the weather conditions were bad, the drivers were impaired or distracted or both,” Metzger said. “Especially during the holiday season, we see a lot of patients who were thinking of the list of items they need to get done rather than concentrating on the task at hand, which is getting to their destination safely.
As an emergency room physician, he has witnessed first-hand the results of a distracted driver.
“In just that split second, lives can be changed forever or even lost,” he said, noting that a majority of the crashes may have been prevented.
Tens of millions of Americans hit the road each year to celebrate the holidays – often traveling long distances, under stress and in hazardous weather, according to the American Safety Council. Three of the top four most dangerous holidays to be on the road include (in order) Thanksgiving, New Year’s Day and Christmas. Since many employers don’t give workers the Wednesday before Thanksgiving off, Thanksgiving Day tends to be a day of rushed, distracted and fatigued driving, the safety council reported.
As for Christmas, most traffic accidents occur between the afternoon of Christmas Eve and the evening of Christmas Day. However, traffic accidents and fatalities tend to decline when Christmas falls on a weekday instead of a weekend, the report said.
So that you don’t become a statistic, the AAA offers a few tips to help you avoid distractions on the roadways:
- Put it away. Place your mobile device out of sight to prevent temptation.
- Know where you’re going. If using a navigation system, program the destination before driving.
- Ask passengers for help. If riding with someone, seek their help to navigate, make a call or send a message.
- Pull over. If you must call or text while on the road, pull off the road safely and stop first.
- Be a good passenger. Speak out if the driver of your vehicle is distracted.
- Activate Do Not Disturb. Setting up this feature on iPhone or Android devices will prevent calls from coming in while you’re driving.
“Having a safe holiday season is what we want for everyone,” Metzger said. “But the Rees-Jones Trauma Center at Parkland always stands ready for those who need our services.”