Winter weather has arrived - again.
There's snow and ice everywhere.
Just keeping the car on the road can be an adventure. It's the season for area motorists to use extreme caution.
Most winter driving crashes are caused by motorists driving too fast for conditions either during or shortly after winter storms.
Most of these crashes could be prevented by simply slowing down.
Adding ice, snow and slippery roads to the holiday driving mix can be a real danger.
Motorists not only need to exhibit extra caution while driving on slippery road surfaces and reduced visibility during the weeks ahead, they also need to stay on high alert for four dangerous driving behaviors, which could make December 2012 one of the most dangerous months ever for motorists, according to a driving expert.
"When accompanied by poor road conditions, these four dangerous behind-the-wheel behaviors combine into a perfect storm of risk for drivers," says Horn, founder of the driving safety program Drive by Example.
Attorney Horn is founder of the Horn Law Firm in Kansas City, where he specializes in motor vehicle accident law and crash litigation, and is recognized as one of the country's leading experts on driving safety.
Horn says the winter holiday's four most dangerous driving behaviors are:
- Distracted Driving: "This includes driving while using cell phones for both talking and texting holiday messages to friends, co-workers, and family," Horn says. "It also includes driving while checking out store hours and locations using a smart phone to surf the web."
- Impaired Driving: "Year end dinners, parties and celebrations typically involve consumption of alcohol, and in too many cases, use of drugs," says Horn. "An increase in the number of impaired drivers using the roadways during the winter holidays has been well-established by law enforcement, and the loss of life resulting from impaired driving is also well-established."
- Pressured Driving: "The winter holidays typically bring with them increased pressures, especially financial pressures and the stress created by trying to do too much in a short time span. Drivers often react to these pressures by driving too fast for conditions, making aggressive lane changes, failing to yield right-of-way, and generally disregarding the needs and safety of others using the road," he says.
- Fatigued Driving: "Increased demands and activities during the winter holidays often mean significantly reduced sleep schedules," Horn says. "According to a study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, people who slept six to seven hours a night were twice as likely to be involved in a crash as those sleeping eight hours or more, while people sleeping less than five hours increased their risk four to five times."
Horn says it's not uncommon for a single driver to exhibit all four dangerous driving behaviors at the same time, especially in the final 10 days of the year.
To help motorists stay accident-free over the holidays, Horn has compiled some tips for safe driving which he says can and should be used 365 days-a-year by every motorist:
- Drive Alert: "This is especially crucial at intersections where failure to notice traffic control devices can result in violent collisions and pedestrian injuries," Horn says.
- Drive Buckled: "The use of seat belts reduces risk of crash fatality by 45 percent according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Organization," Horn says.
- Drive Cautious: "Drive at safe speeds for conditions, keep proper distance between vehicles, obey traffic signs, and signal all turns," he says. Resist the temptation to make a sudden lane change or another risky maneuver.
- Drive Defensively: "When you drive alert, buckled and cautious, you are effectively protecting yourself, your passengers and other motorists against risk of violent collision, injury and fatality," he says.