The holiday season is always a bittersweet time in my life. It's been several years since the night of my friend's car accident. I saw her minutes earlier as we parted ways after a college party. Although we both had designated drivers, it turned out that her driver had actually been drinking, too. Her driver survived the accident, but my friend wasn't so lucky.
If there's one thing I want you to take away from my story, it's the importance of staying safe during the holiday season. My friend thought she was riding with a designated driver. Had she or I been a little more diligent before saying our goodbyes or made prior arrangements with a trustworthy friend, she might still be here today.
Stay Safe in Public
Given the amount of retail shopping, fine dining and friendly meetings that occur during the holiday season, it's too easy to forget about your own safety. As many people have discovered, however, running between stores, rushing to meet sales deadlines and trying to fight off the large crowds is actually the least of our concerns.
The Broward County Sheriff's Office provides a number of crime prevention and public safety tips specifically geared toward the holidays. Among the most helpful tips include parking in well-lit areas with heavy foot and vehicle traffic, inspecting your car before getting in and watching over your shoulder to prevent anyone from sneaking up behind you.
Your purse, checkbook or credit cards are at an increased risk during the holidays, too. Experts recommend that you only carry the cards you plan to use during any given trip. You should also avoid carrying large sums of cash at any time.
Ensure Vehicle and Roadway Safety
Vehicle safety is a big one and, as you might have guessed, an issue that is very close to my heart. The days before and after Thanksgiving account for more than 400 traffic-related fatalities on a yearly basis. Combine this with the fact that alcohol is believed to play a factor in more than half of all accidents on Christmas Day and New Year's Eve, and it's starting to look like a holiday epidemic.
With that in mind, I urge everyone to take caution on our nation's roadways. Instead of leaving your house at the last minute and rushing to make it to your destination on time, leave early and give yourself plenty of time. You never know when you'll hit a delay due to weather, traffic or, in the worst case scenario, an accident.
Never get behind the wheel of an automobile after drinking. There are alternatives, depending on your location, including public transportation, community rideshares and even commercial driving services. Many organizations provide free local rides on New Year's Eve.
The legal BAC limit for drivers is 0.08, and anyone who registers over the threshold is subject to interrogation, fines and arrest. First-time offenders with a general impairment aren't typically at risk of losing their license, but impaired drivers with a BAC above 0.10 will face a one-year suspension.
Keep in mind that you're not the only driver on the roadway. While you might not be intoxicated, rushed or distracted in any way, others might be. Some people may be driving too fast for the weather without realizing it. It's important to remain diligent, keep your eyes on the road and never drive if you are fatigued, intoxicated or impaired in any way. If you’re concerned about another driver, it may be best to report them. Pull over to a safe location and dial 9-1-1, noting the car registration number and your location.
Ensure Safety at Home
Accidents aren't limited to our nation's streets and highways. The National Fire Protection Association attributes an average of 210 fires per year to Christmas trees alone. These incidents result in several deaths, numerous injuries and millions of dollars worth of property damage on an annual basis. Other common hazards include holiday candles, decorations and home-cooked meals.
Increase the safety of your home this holiday season. If decorating a live tree, choose one that's still fresh. It’s less susceptible to heat and fire, and the healthy green needles are less likely to shed on your floor or carpet. Keep open flames away from your Christmas tree.
When preparing and cooking large meals, make sure to clean your cooking area beforehand. Overhead ducts and exhaust hoods can trap grease and dust that could become a potential fire hazard. Once you start cooking, follow the typical guidelines and safety rules for at-home cooking.
Help Yourself and Others This Holiday Season
With so many hazards around the holiday season, it's critical that you pay extra attention to your surroundings. Stay in contact with your loved ones and help others whenever possible. In the hustle and bustle that is typically associated with this time of year, it can be difficult to keep track of such mundane caveats. To provide your friends with a reminder, try sharing this post on social media. Who knows — it might even save a life.