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Front Page » December 18, 2007 » Local News » A Season Of Risks
Published 2,502 days ago

A Season Of Risks


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By TERRY C. SMITH
Rural safety coordinator
Utah Highway Safety

Road conditions have something to do with traffic accidents during the holidays, but peoples actions and behavior affect the accident rate much more profoundly than anything mother nature does.

The holiday season is here again.

I don't know if it's just me, but it seems to get here earlier each year. From now until the first of the year it's shopping, traveling, more shopping, and parties. It is a very busy, fast paced time of year and also a very dangerous time of year.

What makes the Christmas season so dangerous? We take a lot of risks this time of year without even thinking about it. It's easy to find yourself in overdrive trying to keep up with family and friends and constantly running from one event to the next. We have Christmas plays and pageants at schools, church parties, office parties, family parties, and parties with friends and neighbors. So many things to do and so little time to do them and it doesn't help that it gets dark so early this time of year.

So what are the risks we're taking? First, we push ourselves harder and longer to try and get everything done. If we need a few extra hours, we just stay up later. We can sleep after the holidays, right? You can't make up for lost sleep. It doesn't work that way.

A recent study showed that drivers who only get five to six hours of sleep have the same reaction time as someone legally drunk. That means your reaction time is slowed and your decision-making ability is impaired, increasing your chances of being in a crash.

Let's not stop there; let's add another distraction to our driving, a cell phone. We can't leave home without it. Now our chances of being in a crash are even higher than before. Since we are in a hurry, we will also be speeding.

Now let's review our behavior: we are tired so our reaction time is slowed; we are on the phone (probably talking about nothing in particular) so our reaction time is slowed even more; and we are speeding.

Most hospitals serve a holiday meal at Christmas, don't they. You may be headed there under these circumstances.

Now, let's say by luck you make it to the party with all your friends. What better way to celebrate then by enjoying a couple of drinks. You will only have two - no more.

The first thing alcohol affects is judgment. Maybe one or two more drinks won't hurt you; you are only a couple of miles from home and there are always the back roads. No one will know. So what do you do?

Call someone, find a sober driver, or stay where you are. The choice is yours. If you choose to drive, the season may get really expensive.

If you get caught and arrested, the fines and fees are between $2,000-$3,000 and that doesn't include the extremely high insurance premiums you have to pay for the next seven years.

Of course, that's if you get arrested before causing a crash where you or someone else is hurt or killed. That might ruin your holiday season.

Why take all the risks? You don't need to. There are some simple steps for a risk-free holiday season.

Slow down and enjoy the season. Don't overextend yourself; maybe even learn to say no. Simplify your plans and don't try to do everything yourself. Ask for help. Plan ahead so you have plenty of time to get things done and still get plenty of rest.

If you do attend parties where alcohol will be served, make plans in advance for a place to stay or a designated driver. Make sure your hosts know who the designated driver is so they don't serve that person anything with alcohol.

Taking risks can cost you a little or it can cost you everything.

You decide.


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