JACKSON, Miss.—Millions of travelers will be hitting the highways, not skyways, this holiday season in a rush to gather with family and friends. Most people will be concerned about not forgetting Christmas gifts, but Methodist Rehabilitation Center urges families to remember that safety is perhaps the best gift of all.
Dr. Rahul Vohra, Methodist Rehab’s medical director, encourages families to use appropriate car seats and seat belts for children and to always buckle up.
“There is an increase in traffic-related fatalities during the holiday season,” said Dr. Vohra. “We want people be extra cautious and to plan for common delays such as heavy traffic and bad weather.”
The American Automobile Association estimates that 79 percent of holiday travelers will choose to drive this year.
Dr. Vohra recommends that car seats be checked by a certified car seat technician to insure that they are installed correctly.
Alcohol-related traffic deaths are on the rise nationwide for the first time in five years, according to statistics released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Last year 16,653 people were killed and more than 600,000 others were injured in crashes involving alcohol. The National Safety Council predicts there will be 522 deaths and 27,700 disabling injuries due to traffic crashes over the Christmas holiday (6 p.m., Dec. 21- 11:59 p.m., Dec. 25).
Lauren Fairburn, director of Think First, Methodist Rehab’s safety and injury prevention program says there are other safety concerns to consider when traveling at Christmas. She suggests that parents make sure the home they are visiting has been child-proofed and that they designate a family member to be responsible for small children at all times.
“Matches or lighters, medications, alcohol and other objects should be kept out of the reach of children,” said Fairburn. “Also, make sure to dispose of all objects that could be a choking hazard to small children.”
Dr. Vohra’s tips for safe traveling this Christmas season include:
- Never drink alcoholic beverages and drive.
- Be sure to use appropriate car seats and seat belts for your children when traveling. If you are traveling in someone else's car, arrange ahead of time to borrow or rent the appropriate car seat for your child.
- Be extra patient when traveling during the holidays.
- Never talk on a cell phone while driving.
- Expect increased traffic on the road and allow more time to reach your destination.
- Never allow luggage or other items to block the rear window.
- Remember to rest every two to three hours.
“Safe and sober driving must be a priority for everyone,” said Fairburn. “ We want holiday celebrations to be fun and exciting, but most importantly, safe.”