The holiday season is in full swing, and with it comes additional chances for danger on the nation’s roadways. Streets crowded with last minute shoppers and holiday revelers, combined with unpredictable weather make conditions ripe for accidents. As a professional driver, you need to be mindful of the hazards the holiday season brings, and do all you can to make your time on the road as safe as possible. Here are some tips that can help:
Tip #1…Take steps to combat fatigue. Holiday events and celebrations can be exciting times to get together with family and friends. Yet, too many late nights can lead to personal fatigue that can slow your reaction time, impair your judgment and make it difficult for you to drive safely. Get sufficient rest before you get behind the wheel and never mix alcohol and driving (see 49 CFR §392.5).
Tip #2…Make sure your vehicle is in good shape for travel. Give it a thorough pre-trip inspection before driving, paying special attention to windshield wipers, brakes, tire pressure, the condition of belts and hoses, and fluid levels. Also, check your emergency kit to make sure you’re prepared for whatever comes your way. Although weather can be unpredictable any time of year, the problems of traveling during the holiday season will only be compounded if your vehicle fails to operate properly.
Tip #3…Pre-plan your travel route, expect delays, particularly on weekends and in shopping areas, and allow yourself extra time to reach your destination. Doing so will help you avoid making quick-decision maneuvers that could lead to trouble. Take it easy – let impatient and aggressive drivers pass you so that you control the situation.
Tip #4…Keep a close eye on weather and road conditions. As accurate as weather forecasters try to be, nature often throws out surprises. Avoid the pitfalls of winter driving by slowing down, even if the roads have been sanded or salted, and increasing your following distance to give yourself time to react to the traffic around you. If conditions become dangerous, discontinue driving until the vehicle can be operated safely (see 49 CFR §392.14).
Tip #5…Practice patience and good judgment when pedestrians, bicyclists and scooter riders are present. Slow down, watch carefully and be prepared to stop. Search between cars at corners, and be especially mindful of young children when attempting any turn. Lean forward and backward to peer around the vehicle’s windshield pillar, and look each way several times before beginning your turn. Stay alert for drivers and/or passengers about to exit parked vehicles. Give extra clearance so if they open their door at the worst possible moment you can still avoid them.
Tip #6…Be on the lookout for impaired drivers. Keep clear of vehicles that are weaving, swerving or drifting; driving at inconsistent speeds; braking erratically; ignoring or responding slowly to traffic lights and driving at night with no lights.
Tip #7…Watch out for confused or distracted drivers. Out-of-town visitors unfamiliar with the area, and drivers distracted by holiday multitasking can cause big problems. Keep an eye out for irregular movements and hesitations from travelers who don’t seem to know where they are going. Give yourself time and space to avoid problems caused by their poor judgment.
Tip #8…Avoid your own distractions. Even just two seconds of distraction time greatly increases the chance of an accident. So, while many drivers around you are going to be distracted by the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, remember that it’s your responsibility to be a good role model and remain focused on driving.
Tip #9…Buckle up. Wearing your seat belt is one of the most important things you can do to protect yourself and others while driving. If you are in a crash, it will keep you in your seat and help you maintain control of your vehicle.
As a professional driver, you will face your fair share of hazards while driving this holiday season. However, by staying vigilant, slowing down, increasing space around your vehicle, and applying the principles of defensive driving, you can help make the season a safe and happy one.