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The holidays are a busy time with students coming home from college, family gatherings, after work parties, dinner with friends, and other special events. Sadly, the festive nature of the season provides temptations that makes the 35 days between Thanksgiving and New Year’s the most dangerous time on our roads. In addition to drinking, other contributing factors to auto accidents are fatigue, speeding, distractions, and wintry weather conditions.

AAA estimates that more than 250 people die during the Christmas and New Year’s season. Within 24 hours, there were two fatal crashes in the Metro Detroit area alone. A 32-year old man was killed after his Monte Carlo literally wrapped around a tree in Roseville, MI. Police say the man was driving more than 70 mph in a 45 mph zone when he lost control of his vehicle, jumped a curb, and slammed into the tree. The driver was wearing a seatbelt, but died at the scene due to massive injuries. Police believe speeding coupled with alcohol were factors in the crash. In the other accident, a 38-year-old woman was driving a Dodge Journey when she crossed the center line, crashing head-on into a Hyundai sedan, killing its driver. The driver of the Journey was initially trapped inside; she was transported to an area hospital with non-life threatening injuries. Police believe speeding, erratic driving and alcohol played a role in the crash. Both accidents remain under investigation.

While some auto accidents are so devastating that no amount of safety equipment could have saved the driver or passengers, seatbelts continue to be the single most effective protection device in your vehicle. Case in point is a recent Facebook post shared by an employee of Lawsuit Financial.

“Tonight I will go to bed barely being able to move my body with a bruise covering the entire left half of my chest, left there from the seat belt that saved my life after a drunk driver rear ended me and my car spun and hit the median twice. I’m okay, I’m very sore and I will be spending quite a few days in bed. But nothing is broken and there’s no trauma. This isn’t me looking for pity or sympathy. I tell my friends all the time that they need to wear a seat belt in my car or they can get out of it. I tell my friends all the time that even 1 drink is too many to drive home. Both of these statements are constantly met with eye rolls. This is me telling all of you that I’m not putting up with it anymore. If you don’t wear a seat belt, that’s your own life in danger. But if you get behind the wheel of a car after drinking, you’re endangering everyone around you. The guy that hit me walked away after he watched me get taken away in an ambulance.”

As we approach the New Year, take steps to protect yourself and others from becoming a statistic.

  1. Don’t drive if you’ve been drinking, even if you don’t feel intoxicated. Any amount of alcohol will decrease your reaction time while driving.
  2. Don’t let someone you know get behind the wheel if they’ve been drinking. Take their keys and make arrangements for his/her transportation.
  3. Be cautious and watch for the erratic movements of drunken drivers.
  4. Report drunk drivers. If you see a vehicle driving erratically, this could mean that the driver has been drinking. Pull off the road and call your local authorities.
  5. Always buckle up. If you are involved in a collision, you stand a better chance of walking away from the accident if you were wearing your seat belt.
  6. Auto accidents due to alcohol consumption are highest between 8 p.m. and 2 a.m. Avoid being on the road at those times.

Remember, too, that the consequences of impaired driving are not limited to the holidays. NEVER drink and drive; it is not worth the risk.

Mark Bello is the CEO and General Counsel of Lawsuit Financial Corporation, a pro-justice lawsuit funding company.

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