It may be a time for family and festive cheer, but Christmas can also bring unexpected risks. This point in the calendar can be particularly dangerous for drivers, as figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) highlight. According to the organisation, the number of traffic accidents increases by an average of 30 per cent among women and nine per cent among men in December compared with the rest of the year.
Bad weather is one of the factors that can make motoring more treacherous during the cold season. Reflecting this, a survey of 750 motorists conducted for Chill car insurance revealed that 15 per cent of respondents had been involved in car accidents in winter. From snow and ice to freezing fog, there can be a range of hazards for drivers to contend with when temperatures drop.
The Christmas period itself compounds the problems, and one reason for this is the fact that more people tend to be out on the highways, increasing the risk of collisions. Traffic intelligence specialist Inrix predicts that journey times on some major UK routes could be almost four times longer than usual over peak periods this Christmas due to congestion as people travel to see relatives and friends.
Drunk driving rates can also rise over the festive season. ONS data suggests Britons consume 40 per cent more alcohol in December than the annual monthly average.
How to stay safe
The extra dangers associated with getting behind the wheel during the holiday season can make driving seem like a daunting prospect. However, there are ways to minimise risks when you're on the roads. For example, it pays off to make sure your car's in good condition, and this includes getting the battery checked, topping up windscreen washer fluid and ensuring your tyre pressure and tread are safe. You should also try not to drive in difficult weather conditions. Even on gritted roads, a blizzard can result in dramatically reduced grip. Also, if you can, avoid travelling during the night as tiredness will make you less alert.
Be especially vigilant when it comes to other road users too. For example, if the vehicle in front of you is weaving, changing speed unnecessarily or making irrational movements, be aware that the driver may be intoxicated and give them extra room to take account of this. Also, reduce your speed more than usual when you're travelling through built-up areas as pedestrians who've had a little too much festive cheer may be over the limit and therefore unpredictable.
Never drive when you're over the blood alcohol limit, and bear in mind that this applies the day after you've been drinking too. On average, people break down one unit of alcohol per hour, but this can vary according to factors such as your age, weight, how much you've eaten and any medications you're taking. If you're not sure whether you're still over the limit, you could test yourself using a home breathalyser kit. However, if you don't have one of these kits and there's a possibility you may be unfit to drive, don't risk taking to the roads.
Give yourself the best chance of staying safe behind the wheel this Christmas by making sure that both you and your car are ready to cope with the conditions you meet.