Stores around the country already have begun to stock their shelves with inflatable snowmen, reminding us the holidays are just around the corner. We shake our heads in astonishment that holiday preparation begins earlier each year, but it's also a timely reminder about holiday safety. It's never too early to study up on safety, whether you're planning a trip or holiday shopping.
Millions of Americans will head out to see family and friends during the holidays. Unfortunately, some of us will be involved in accidents. Holiday drivers often are distracted by talkative children, yelping pets or holiday fixings sloshing around with every stop and go.
Use extra caution as you hit the road this year. Here are a few tips to keep your holiday plans on track:
- Say no to holiday eggnog. Never drink and drive, but also be on the lookout for haphazard driving and drivers operating their vehicles under the influence. Unfortunately, the number of accidents and fatalities caused by drinking inevitably rises around the holiday season. You can take other steps to avoid drinking and driving.
- Plan for shorter days. The more light, the safer the roads. During the winter months, an earlier sunset means you've got less daylight to work with. Ideally, plan your trip to avoid driving at night. If you think you're going to be out after dark, keep these night driving tips in mind.
- Be ready if your battery dies. Cold weather takes its toll on car batteries. Double-check to make sure you've got jumper cables in your trunk. You never know when an easy jump-start could save you time and hassle — or when you could use them to help someone else.
- Prepare to be stuck. A winter storm can leave you spending your holiday stuck in a drift or stranded in a blizzard, particularly if you're traveling on unfamiliar roads. Stock your vehicle with other items that might be helpful in case of a problem: thick blankets, extra food and water, coats and jackets, and a flashlight.
Once you've navigated the hazards of the open road, you might be headed out to start your holiday shopping. Stay alert in a place where you might let your guard down — the parking lot. Malls and department stores will be filled to capacity and beyond with shoppers who are single-minded in their exploits.
Here are a few tips to help keep you safe:
- Get some rest. After a long drive and a big meal, you may be tired. Getting up early to hit the stores could be more than your body can handle.
- Look more than once when backing out of parking spaces. It's also a good idea to have someone act as a lookout for you, especially if you're parked next to an SUV or van.
- Be on the lookout for vehicles suddenly backing out of spaces.
- Remember to keep a watch on your children and be on the lookout for small children running behind your car as you leave your space.
- Thieves target vehicles with out-of-state plates. Remove your navigation systems, CDs and other valuables from the car or put them out-of-sight. These are prime items for a smash-and-grab opportunity.
Holiday season brings with it increased vehicle break-ins — especially at shopping malls around the country. To make yours a positive holiday shopping experience, remember to:
- Keep all receipts in your wallet or purse. Leaving the receipt in the bag makes it difficult for you to prove your purchase, and easy for thieves to return the items for cash.
- Move your vehicle to another spot in the lot if you opt to drop off purchases to your vehicle at a midpoint in your shopping trip. Onlookers will think that you have left the mall, and your vehicle will be less of a target.
- Make sure your purchases are out of sight. Keep them in your trunk or covered in the front or back seats.
- Spread your shopping over several days. You are away from your vehicle for a shorter period of time each day, and shopping becomes less stressful.