We all know not to drink and drive; but don’t shop and drive?
That seems to be the take-away message following the release of a new traffic study that found drivers who are feeling that special kind of stress that comes during this most wonderful time of year are 32 percent more likely to become aggressive. The same study found that the six-day period around Christmas registered 27 percent more auto accidents than crashes during booze-fueled New Year’s Eve, and 18 percent more pile-ups than the heaviest travel period of the year, which is Thanksgiving weekend.
The new report is based upon the work of University of Alabama Professor David Brown, who compiled traffic data from his state over a ten year period. That data was included in a State Farm Insurance report released this week, and which also found — no surprise here — that parents and drivers younger than 49 are particularly prone to “angry driving.”
Jonathan Adkins, deputy executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association, told the Washington Post that it “makes sense” that accidents increase during the holidays because “people tend to drive aggressively when they are feeling stress in their lives.”
Though an informal study conducted by the Post found that drivers in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, DC don’t need holiday pressure to feel the rage.
Brown explained the unique effects of the seasonal stress in the Post piece, saying, “The pressure of the holiday, the pressure of having to find something and running all over to find it and all of those things would tend to distract them. … Their mind is on other things, and the next thing you know they’re pulling out in front of somebody.” In addition to the new report, the Highway Loss Data Institute confirms claims for collisions increase by almost 20 percent in December, while also noting that many minor fender-benders go unreported to police and insurance companies.
The good news, according to Brown, is that Christmas Day is a great day to drive. And even Christmas Eve sees some relief due to a number of businesses closing up shop early. Brown suggested the number of holiday-related crashes might be reduced if law enforcement were to focus on drivers who make erratic and rash manuevers, rather than rely on speed as a possible indicator of “angry,” and therefore dangerous, driving. Who knows, maybe law enforcement agencies will start staging driver check-points at shopping mall and big box retail parking lots.
Seasonal revelers should not, however, assume that the new report will take away from the traditional aggressive DUI and DWI campaigns used in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC every holiday season. For more information about DUI and DWI violations, click here.