The 12 Days of Danger: Holiday Driving

We could all use some safety advice from that jolly old guy in the red suit. Santa's no dummy when it comes to safety: he uses a bright shiny reindeer nose so he's visible in bad weather.

The holidays can be a joyous time of the year. But, it can also be the most dangerous for motorists and pedestrians. You're dashing through the snow and you better watch out -- I'm telling you why:

1. College Students
You've lost that driving feeling
They've been away at school. They haven't been driving. Now they're home and getting behind the wheel for the first time in three months. Add to that the excitement of seeing friends, the hubub of the holidays and you've got yourself an accident waiting to happen.

2. Rental Cars
Where are the wipers?
We don't always rent a car that's exactly like the one back home. So when you get behind that rental car, be sure you're familiar with where everything's located. It wouldn't hurt to drive it around the lot a bit. And, don't rent something that's completely foreign to you: if you've never driven an SUV, then now's not a good time to learn how. Taller vehicles are more prone to roll overs.

3. Oy, Christmas Tree
Conifer collision
Make sure that freshly cut Christmas tree you lashed onto the roof of your car is tightly secured. Unsecured loads cause countless accidents: the unsuspecting driver wreaks havoc behind him as cars swerve to avoid the fallen debris or worse, are struck by flying objects. Try to avoid driving behind such vehicles.

4. Men in Black
Dangers in the night
Black or dark colored clothing may be tres chic but they're muito dangerous to be wearing at night when walking. Carry a flashlight or clip a blinking light to the back of your jacket. Wear something with reflective tape on it. Same goes for your dog. Why do you suppose Santa wears a bright red suit and has a reindeer with the LED proboscis?

5. Skidamarink a Dinka Dink
"Turn into the direction of the skid"
We've all been taught to do that if your car begins to skid, but just what the heck does that mean? Which direction should you turn the steering wheel? While you're in a skid, you're not going to be thinking, "OK, which way is the car skidding? I'm sliding to the left, but I'm sort of spinning to the right. So, am I skidding to the left or to the right?" More than likely, you're in a state of sheer terror and thinking, "OH NO!!"

Here's what you should do: steer in the direction you want the car to go. When the car starts skidding, look directly at where you want to go. Do not look at what you want to avoid. Your hands will follow your eyes, so if you stare at the tree on the side of the road, that's where you're going to end up. So, when your car begins to skid:

  1. Get your foot off the accelerator and the brake.
  2. Steer gently in the direction you want the car to go.
  3. As you begin to regain control of the car, gently apply the brakes.

If you can't remember anything, you could just try hitting the brakes. With the latest anti-lock braking systems, if the driver hits the brake pedal the instant the skid begins, the computer sometimes brings the car to a stop. And remember, almost all cars have ABS, which means you should never pump the brakes. Never. Just apply steady, hard pressure to the brake pedal. The ABS will automatically pump the brakes to keep the wheels from locking and the vehicle from skidding.