Loading up the car and traveling to see family and friends is part and parcel of the holiday season in Alabama and throughout the United States. Yet, in Alabama more than most states, holiday travel can be deadly.
Alabama is, in fact, the fifth most deadly state for automobile accidents during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS).
Joining Alabama in the top five states for deadly Thanksgiving and Christmas travel are neighboring Mississippi at No. 1, and nearby Louisiana, which tied with New Mexico at No. 3. South Dakota is No. 2 on the list. Another Alabama neighbor, Florida, rounds out the top 5. The shared geographies and cultures of the Southern states most likely contribute to the similar statistics regarding traffic fatalities.
In a five-year study conducted by ValuePenguin researchers, Alabama had 58 vehicle fatalities around Thanksgiving and 47 around Christmas.
The following factors play substantial roles in deadly holiday automobile accidents:
- Drunken driving: 36 percent of Christmas and 35 percent of Thanksgiving holiday driving fatalities involve alcohol.
- Night driving: 64 percent of Christmas and 61 percent of Thanksgiving holiday driving fatalities occur at night.
- Weather: 44 percent of Christmas and 32 percent of Thanksgiving holiday driving fatalities occur in adverse weather. In Alabama, rain is the common weather factor.
Drowsy driving, distracted driving and excessive speed also contribute to the number of automobile fatalities each holiday season. An estimated 21 percent of fatal crashes involve a drowsy driver, says the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Distracted driving is often attributed to cell phone use; NSC experts estimate that one in four car crashes involves the use of a cell phone. Moreover, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says excess speed plays a part in 70 percent of fatal automobile accidents.
Despite Alabama’s rank in the grim top five for Thanksgiving and Christmas travel, those two holidays are not the deadliest for automobile travel. Instead, July Fourth and New Year’s Day claim that distinction in Alabama, and nationwide. The National Safety Council (NSC) estimates that 384 people may die on U.S. roads during the upcoming New Year’s Day holiday period, which begins at 6 p.m. New Year’s Eve, 2020, and ends at 11:59 p.m. Jan. 3, 2021.
Armed with these alarming numbers on holiday traffic accidents, what can drivers and passengers do to minimize the risk of becoming a statistic? The University of Alabama offers this advice:
- Buckle up.
- Don’t drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol or ride with a driver who is under the influence.
- Avoid electronic distractions.
- Slow down.
- Anticipate bad weather and drive defensively by keeping a safe distance between vehicles ahead.
- Let aggressive drivers pass.
In addition, drivers should know their rights in Alabama and understand how to react after a traffic accident during the holidays or any other day of the year. Here are the most important things to remember:
- Make sure everyone involved is safe. Was anyone injured? Are all drivers and passengers out of harm’s way?
- Do not admit fault. Admitting fault, however minor it may seem, could prevent you from collecting damages because of Alabama’s strict contributory negligence law, which states that injured parties cannot collect if they are responsible in any way for the accident.
- Call 911 and stay at the scene of the accident. Alabama law requires those involved in an automobile accident to remain at the scene and call the police.
- Seek medical attention. Medical records are crucial to a claim for damages, and not all injuries are immediately evident.
- Call a lawyer. Research personal injury attorneys who have a proven track record of success. We encourage you to review the credentials of attorneys and actual case outcomes. At Hornsby, Watson, Hornsby & Heyward, we publish this information on our website. You’re welcome to contact us for help. We’re experienced in overcoming insurance company efforts to deny claims or to try to force you to settle. We’ll also help you decide whether it’s best to settle a case or take it to court.
On a positive note, the holidays ahead may not be as dangerous in Alabama as they have been in the past. Alabama Law Enforcement Agency reported a 60 percent decrease in traffic-related deaths over the 2020 Labor Day holiday and a 30 percent decrease over the Thanksgiving holiday. Whether it is attributable to better driving or decreased travel because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the hope among law enforcement officers is that the trend continues for the rest of 2020 and into 2021.