OHS starts campaign focusing on safe holiday driving
December 7, 2020
DOVER — The Delaware Office of Highway Safety has kicked off its annual Safe Family Holiday campaign to reduce the number of vehicle crashes across the state over the winter holidays, the most dangerous time of year for drivers, passengers and pedestrians.
The campaign — which runs until Dec. 27 — aims to increase awareness of travel safety issues and mobilize Delawareans to adhere to best practices for driver and pedestrian safety, OHS said.
Realizing early on in the COVID-19 pandemic that a number of influences would compound the ongoing issues contributing to increased roadway dangers during the holidays, OHS said it has developed a robust strategy with its awareness and behavioral change tactics for its annual 2020 holiday safe-driving campaign, including partnerships with area restaurants, drive-thru light shows and others.
Additionally, OHS said, Delaware state and local police will make a concentrated effort to enforce Delaware’s DUI, seat belt, speeding, pedestrian and hands-free cellphone laws, among others.
While the increase in crashes — and associated injuries, deaths, expenses and tragedies over the holidays — has always been an area of concern and focus for OHS, the COVID-19 pandemic has introduced a unique set of dynamics that could make this year more dangerous than ever for drivers and pedestrians.
In addition to traditional issues, such as bad weather, holiday alcohol use and distractions, OHS cites several pandemic dynamics that have the potential to contribute significantly to unsafe roadways, including takeaway alcoholic beverage purchases and higher frequencies of speeding due to less traffic.
Lastly, OHS said, with holiday celebrations taking the form of drive-by light shows, holiday displays and socially distanced family greetings, additional dangers on the road could result from the added traffic congestion and new sources of distractions for drivers.
“Traditionally, everything from bad weather, parties, and increased alcohol consumption to late-night driving, holiday exhaustion, and travel on unfamiliar roads creates a perfect storm for increased crashes, injuries, and fatalities over the holidays,” said Kim Chesser, director of OHS, in a news release.
“The pandemic has altered our lives in ways that can contribute to unsafe driving and pedestrian behaviors and, consequently, to more crashes, injuries, and deaths — and, sadly, family tragedies — over the holidays.”
Crashes are costly — from fines and potential jail time to repairs, medical bills and insurance increases to possible life-altering physical injuries or death. Crashes also increase the risk of COVID-19 exposure for all parties involved, including first responders.
OHS offers the following as key best practices for increasing safety while traveling or walking over the holidays:
- Always buckle up.
- Obey the speed limit.
- Be aware of roads that may be icy, wet or snowy, especially if they are unfamiliar or not well-lit.
- Always wear reflective clothing and use crosswalks when possible.
- Never drive if you are tired.
- Never use a smartphone while driving.
- Never get behind the wheel if you’re under the influence of alcohol, drugs or any other impairing substances, including prescribed medications.
- Pay attention to and obey law enforcement activities.
Each holiday, the OHS said, the campaign focuses on five pillars of awareness and behavioral change:
- Impaired driving: In 2019, there were 26 crash-related deaths due to impaired driving/DUI and 4,188 arrests.
- Speeding: In 2019, speed was involved in 43 vehicle fatalities, accounting for approximately 32% of all traffic fatalities.
- Pedestrian safety: In 2019, 33 pedestrians were killed in traffic crashes.
- Seat belt neglect: While seat belt use is at an all-time high in Delaware, 44% of vehicle occupants involved in fatal crashes were not restrained — a 32% increase from 2019.
- Distracted driving: A person who texts while driving is six times more likely to cause a crash than a driver under the influence of alcohol. In 2019, 37% of all distracted-driving crashes in Delaware occurred during the afternoon rush hour.
The OHS “Safety Snowman” will appear at the Winter in Wilmington Holiday Light Show on Sunday and Dec. 17, 19, 20 and 27.
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