Dr. Campbell on staying safe when traveling this holiday
by WNCN Staff
RALEIGH, N.C. -
Christmas and New Year's is time for being with family and a time for celebration. Office parties, neighborhood parties and get-togethers with friends and families often involve alcohol. Alcohol-related accidents and deaths are significantly increased during the holidays.
New research shows that the holidays tend to be the high point in the year for automobile accidents. Obviously alcohol can impact a driver's ability and can contribute to serious accidents and deaths. A new study also shows that drivers who are sober but suffering from a hangover from the previous night's party can also have delayed reaction times and can be similarly impaired to those who are driving drunk.
Risks and peak times for accidents
A study done at the University of Alabama finds that the days just before Christmas bring an increased risk of vehicle crashes.
Reasons include rushing to buy presents, increased traffic at malls and driving to and from parties. David Brown, a professor of computer science at UA's Center for Advanced Public Safety, found that in 2012, the six-day period that includes Christmas had 18 percent more crashes than the Thanksgiving period and 27 percent more than the period around New Year's Day.
In 2012, there were 1,996 crashes from Dec. 21 to 26, with 10 fatal accidents. During the Tuesday before Thanksgiving to the Sunday after the holiday last year, there were 1,698 crashes, with nine fatal crashes. From Dec. 27 to New Year's Day in 2013, there were 1,552 accidents, with 10 fatal crashes. For all three holidays, the severity of crashes was about the same with just more than 20 percent of crashes resulting in injuries, including the fatal crashes.
With Christmas this year on a Wednesday, the major problem days will be the prior Friday, Monday and Tuesday.
A recent online survey for MADD found that 73 percent of adults 21 and older had "been at an event and seen someone try to drive home after drinking too much." The survey of 632 adults has a margin of error of +/-4 percentage points.
The year-end holidays are particularly dangerous for drunken driving, says MADD national President Jan Withers, citing data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration showing that 1,091 people were killed in DUI crashes last year from Thanksgiving through New Year's Eve.
New hangover study
Hangovers can actually result in impaired driving, similar to driving while impaired.
A new study from both the UK and the Netherlands show that driving with a hangover may impair drivers similar to if they were still intoxicated.
A hangover is as dangerous for drivers as being drunk at the wheel, a study suggests.
The effects of a night's heavy drinking lasted even when the last alcohol had cleared the system, scientists found. They said hung over drivers made significantly more mistakes in a 20-minute road simulation exercise.
A study at the University of the West of England showed that their speed of reaction was slowed down. The variability in the way they drive was more erratic. The hangover subjects in the study were driving as if they were over the legal limit of alcohol, but of course they didn't have that alcohol on board any more.
In a larger Dutch study at Utrecht University, volunteers took part in a simulated one-hour motorway driving test the night after consuming about ten alcoholic drinks.
Compared with the same tests after a drink-free night, the results showed a hangover could significantly increase the lapses in attention and cause deviations or weaving.
During the upcoming holidays, traffic safety professionals highly recommend the following:
Do not drink and drive or even use the roads during those times when you know that others might be driving impaired – i.e., whenever you can anticipate alcohol and drugs to be in use.
Never ride with anyone who has had any alcohol or drugs at all.
Always use your safety restraints, and make sure that everyone in the car uses theirs, even on the shortest of trips.
Never drive with cell phone or texting distractions; and anticipate this behavior in others by the actions of all vehicles around you. Get and stay away from these problematic vehicles.
Drive with the flow of traffic, and do not exceed the speed limit. A 10-mph reduction in speed doubles your chances of surviving a crash.
Get your Christmas shopping done early, and avoid the pre-Christmas rush, especially after dark.
Avoid being out in inclement weather. Weather has a great impact on crashes in general, although they tend to be of lower severity.
Make sure to plan ahead and avoid consuming a large amount of alcohol the night before a road trip in order to stay sharp on the road the next day.