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Drivers Urged to Follow Safety Tips During Holiday Season

Shepherd Center is urging drivers to follow these safety tips during the holiday season to prevent injuries. Motor vehicle accidents are the number one cause of the brain and spinal cord injuries treated at Shepherd Center. Prevention of these injuries is a core part of the rehabilitation hospital's mission.

Top 10 Holiday Driving Safety Tips (Download PDF by clicking here.)

  1. Distracted driving is even more pronounced during the holidays because of increased travel and busy schedules. When you get behind the wheel, make driving your priority. Avoid using cell phones, adjusting the radio or changing CDs, reading maps, and eating and drinking while driving.
  2. Stay alert, keeping your eyes focused on searching and scanning the driving environment. Drive defensively. Wear your seat belt and always expect the unexpected.
  3. With additional holiday activities and increased stress, changes in sleep schedules and shorter days, drivers are vulnerable to drowsiness. Fight fatigue by getting enough rest, allowing extra travel time, taking frequent breaks, sharing the driving, asking passengers to stay alert and limiting driving to times to when you are normally awake. Drowsy driving impairs judgment, slows reaction time and increases stopping distance.
  4. With all the holiday festivities, impaired driving occurs more frequently, and police increase the number of checkpoints and patrols. Use good judgment and drink responsibly. If traveling by car, always have a designated driver. Even small amounts of alcohol can impair your driving ability. Be extra cautious on the road at night and report any driver you believe to be driving impaired.
  5. Winter weather can bring rain, snow, sleet and ice. Check the forecast and road reports in advance of traveling and make contingency plans for bad weather, even for short trips. Increase your following distance an extra 2 seconds for poor weather conditions. If you break down or are caught in bad weather, look for shelter and wait out the storm instead of trying to drive through it. Avoid sitting in a running car to keep warm because of the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
  6. Keep your vehicle well maintained, including tires that are properly pressurized and road worthy. Carry an emergency kit that includes flashlights, blankets and jumper cables. Communicate your travel plans to another person and advise them of any changes.
  7. With increased traffic during the holidays, there is also an increase in commercial vehicles on the road. When driving near large trucks, do not linger in the danger zones behind, in front and to the sides of these vehicles because it is difficult for the truck driver to see you.
  8. When shopping, be sure to park in an appropriate-sized spot. Position the vehicle in the center of the parking space to keep your vehicle free from scratches and dings. Pull through the space, if possible, to avoid having to back up. Watch out for small children who may have strayed from their parents. Return shopping carts to stores or corrals to avoid obstruction for other drivers.
  9. Crime increases during the holidays. To increase safety, park in well-lit areas close to the business you will be visiting. Place any valuables and packages in the trunk or out of sight. When you leave your vehicle, double check that it is locked and have your keys out and ready upon returning. Be alert. If something doesn’t seem right, trust your instincts and avoid the situation.
  10. Holidays often mean spending more time behind the wheel. Consider postponing driving instruction for new drivers until the stresses of the season have subsided. Limit a newly licensed driver’s travels, especially at night.

Compiled by Dan Allison, Occupational/Driving Therapist, Shepherd Center; Adapted from the National Safety Commission

About Shepherd Center

Shepherd Center provides world-class clinical care, research, and family support for people experiencing the most complex conditions, including spinal cord and brain injuries, multi-trauma, traumatic amputations, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and pain. An elite center recognized as both Spinal Cord Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News as one of the nation’s top hospitals for rehabilitation. Shepherd Center treats thousands of patients annually with unmatched expertise and unwavering compassion to help them begin again.