As the last of the end of year holidays draws near, it’s hard not to notice the chill in the air. Not because it’s cold — this is Southern California, after all — but because with great sadness (or glee, depending on which camp you fall in), the sweet, timeless notes of Christmas muzak will soon disappear. At least until, like, August.

With the holidays upon us, we wanted to close the year out with a discussion of something else timeless:  your safety. Joyous as these winter weeks are, for far too many families across our country, the red and green and black and white and blue of their Chrismahanukwanzakah festivities will be tinged with grey.

Every year, hundreds of people are injured on Christmas, and several hundred more ring in the New Year in the morgue. In part, alcohol can be blamed. This time of the year sees a spike in drunk driving, making the road unsafe not just for those behind the wheel, but also for anyone they pass on their way home. But our chosen modes of travel are also contributory:  according to the National Safety Council, “cars have the highest fatality of any major form of transport.”

The most precious gift of any holiday season is ourselves — being there for the ones we love. To ensure this, we’d urge all of our readers to take care, and follow these important safety tips, as laid out by the NSC.

  • Use a designated driver to ensure guests make it home safely after a holiday party; alcohol, over-the-counter or illegal drugs all cause impairment.
  • Make sure every person in the vehicle is properly buckled up no matter how long or short the distance traveled.
  • Put that cell phone away; many distractions can occur while driving, but cell phones are the main culprit
  • Properly maintain the vehicle and keep an emergency kit with you
  • Be prepared for heavy traffic, and possibly heavy snow.

While snow in Southern California is very unlikely (unless you have plans to head to Big Bear), we want to keep you covered in case you’re one of the millions of Americans heading somewhere cold.

Considering how the LA area is something of a mecca for the snow-avoidant, we could probably all use a crash course on how to stay safe behind the wheel when the weather outside is frightful.

We looked to Caltrans for our own refresher. Here’s what they had for us:

  • Allow enough time. Trips to the mountains can take longer during winter than other times of the year, especially if you encounter storm conditions or icy roads. Get an early start and allow plenty of time to reach your destination.
  • Keep your gas tank full. It may be necessary to change routes or turn back during a bad storm or you may be caught in a traffic delay.
  • Keep windshield and windows clear. You may want to stop at a safe turnout to use a snow brush or scraper. Use the car defroster and a clean cloth to keep the windows free of fog.
  • Slow down. A highway speed of 65 miles per hour may be safe in dry weather, but an invitation for trouble on snow and ice. Snow and ice make stopping distances much longer, so keep your seat belt buckled and leave more distance between your vehicle and the vehicle ahead. Bridge decks and shady spots can be icy when other areas are not. Remember to avoid sudden stops and quick direction changes.
  • Be more observant. Visibility is often limited in winter by weather conditions. Slow down and watch for other vehicles that have flashing lights, visibility may be so restricted during a storm that it is difficult to see the slow moving equipment.
  • When stalled, stay with your vehicle and try to conserve fuel while maintaining warmth. Be alert to any possible exhaust or monoxide problems.
  • Give snowplows room to work.  A “strike team” may include several plow trucks, including Tow Plows and wing plows using multiple lanes on a major highway.  Stay at least four (4) car lengths back from snowplows and snow removal equipment.

Back home where the fire is so delightful, keep an eye out for those kiddos. Fire is anything but when it’s the source of a burn. Keep open flames out of reach of both kids and pets, and far away from that tree of yours. A house fire is never in anyone’s Christmas list.

Be mindful as well of your decorations — that tree especially. Make sure it’s properly secured and won’t tip over on anyone. Not only will you have to contend with the embarrassment of being tackled by an 8-foot Douglas Fir, but you’ll also probably find yourself swimming in a sea of shattered glass. It’s hysterical when it happens to Marv in Home Alone, but bare feet and broken baubles do not mix in real life — especially when those toes belong to your little ones.

We know safety isn’t always the merriest of subjects, but we hope these tips will keep you here to spread your good cheer both this holiday season, and the next.

As the holiday season comes into full swing we here at Howard Blau Law want to wish everyone a safe and Happy Holidays and an exciting and prosperous New Year!

Have a serious injury and need legal advice?
Contact Howard Blau.

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Check Out These References for Further Reading:

“Enjoy a Safe Holiday Season.” National Safety Council. Retrieved 21 December 2018. https://www.nsc.org/home-safety/tools-resources/seasonal-safety/winter/holiday

“Winter Safety Tips.” National Safety Council. Retrieved 21 December 2018. https://www.nsc.org/home-safety/tools-resources/seasonal-safety/winter

“Be Prepared for Winter Driving.” National Safety Council. Retrieved 21 December 2018. https://www.nsc.org/home-safety/tools-resources/seasonal-safety/winter/driving

Preparation is Key for Winter Driving Conditions.”Caltrans. Retrieved 21 December 2018. http://www.dot.ca.gov/cttravel/winter.html