EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Opinion

December 4, 2013

Column: Christmas season is a dangerous time to drive

On Earth peace, goodwill toward men — but on the highway, not so much.

A study by David Brown, a University of Alabama professor who studies holiday traffic (perhaps if you’re studying the traffic, it means you’re not stuck in it), found that the six days around Christmas showed 18 percent more accidents than Thanksgiving weekend, the heaviest travel days of the year, and 27 percent more than New Year’s Eve when drivers are perhaps handicapped by an excess of holiday cheer.

Claims for collisions increase by almost 20 percent during December, according to the Highway Loss Data Institute, which indicates that’s probably on the low side because many minor fender benders happen in mall parking lots and are settled privately.

The problem is that probably you and certainly your fellow drivers are stressed out and short-tempered by the extra traffic, including people who aren’t really sure where they’re going, and the necessity to pick up a lot of stuff in scattered locations.

Holidays, it is no secret, are stressful. State Farm Insurance found that 32 percent of drivers were likely to become more aggressive during the holidays.

Drown says that this year the worst, and most hazardous traffic, will fall on the Friday before Christmas, although the next four days leading up to Christmas are likely to be no safe-driving clinic either.

The safest day to drive? Christmas Day itself. “Nobody’s out there on the roads,” Brown said. “It’s a very safe day to drive.”

It’s also a good day to rest up, relax and unwind because that weekend there will be all the gift returns and post-Christmas sales.

Dale McFeatters writes for the Scripps Howard News Service.

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