Tips for Driving Safely During the Holiday Season

Image of an automobile on an icey road

In the United States, motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death for people age 1‒54,1 and about 36,100 people were killed in crashes in 2019.2 Early estimates indicate that crash deaths increased to 38,680 in 2020—a 7% increase in deaths, despite people driving less.3

Motor vehicle crash deaths and injuries can be prevented. Always buckle up, drive at safe speeds, and never drive impaired to help everyone stay safe on the road during the holiday season.

Learn safety tips for:

  • All drivers
  • Child passengers
  • Teen drivers
  • Older adult drivers
Safety Tips for All Drivers
  • Do not drive when you are impaired by alcohol and/or drugs, and do not allow your family members or friends to drive while impaired. In 2019, alcohol-impaired driving contributed to more than 10,100 crash deaths.4 Impairment by any type of legal or illicit drug—not just alcohol—can increase crash risk. If you drink alcohol and/or use drugs, designate a sober driver, call a taxi, or use a ride share service to protect yourself and others on the road.
  • Avoid distractions while driving, such as using your cell phone to text, email, or access social media. Sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for at least five seconds. At 55 miles per hour, that is like driving the length of an entire football fieldexternal icon with your eyes closed. Safe driving requires your full attention.
  • Check the weather conditions before you head out on the road. Make sure to drive at a speed that is safe for road and weather conditions.
Image of highway traffic in winter

Learn more about child passenger safety and its four stages (rear-facing car seats, forward-facing car seats, booster seats, and seat belts).

Find out how Parents Are the Key in helping keep teen drivers safe.

Discover steps older adults can take to stay safe on the roads.

Child Passenger Safety Tips

Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death among children,1 but you can make a difference by making sure kids are always properly buckled. Protect yourself and your children and keep the holiday season injury free.

  • Buckle children in age- and size-appropriate car seats, booster seats, and seat belts, which reduce the risk for serious injuries or death in a car crash by up to 80 percent.
  • Children are safest when car seats and booster seats are used correctly. Buckle children the right way in the right seat and learn how to avoid the most common mistakes.
  • Bulky/puffy coats should not be used underneath a car seat harness. Bulky clothing makes it difficult to tighten a car seat harness properly. A loose harness is dangerous and can lead to serious injuries or even ejection from the car seat in a crash.
    • Instead, properly buckle the harness first, then place a coat or blanket over the buckled child. This will not interfere with the harness and will still keep the child warm. For more information, you can visit the Winter Car Seat Safety Tips webpageexternal icon on the American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) website for parents.
  • Remember that children age 12 and younger should be properly buckled in the back seat of the vehicle.
  • Set a good example by always using a seat belt yourself.
Teen Driver Safety Tips

If you have a teen driver in your family, take advantage of CDC’s safe teen driving resources.

  • Did you know the leading causes of teen crashes and injuries include driver inexperience, driving with teen passengers, nighttime driving, and not using seat belts?
  • Discuss the rules of the road with your teen. Consider creating a Parent-Teen Driving Agreement that puts the rules in writing so that limits and expectations are clear.
  • Know your state’s lawsexternal icon. All states have graduated driver licensing (GDL) systems, which help ensure teens can build driving skills under lower-risk conditions.
  • Get in supervised driving time with your teen over the holidays while they are not in school. Practicing driving under your supervision in different kinds of weather is helpful for providing your teen with valuable driving experience in varied conditions (when the weather is not too severe or dangerous).
  • Require your teen to buckle up in every seating position and on every trip. Set a good example by doing the same. Using seat belts can reduce the risk of death or serious injury in a crash by about half.5
Older Driver Safety Tips

Driving helps older adults stay mobile and independent. However, the risk of being injured or killed in a motor vehicle crash increases as people age. Thankfully, if you are an older driver, there are steps you can take to stay safe on the road.

  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist to review medicines—both prescription and over-the-counter—to reduce side effects and interactions that could affect your ability to drive safely.
  • Have your eyes checked by an eye doctor at least once a year. Wear glasses and corrective lenses as directed.
  • Plan your route before you drive.
  • Find the safest route with well-lit streets, intersections with left-turn signals, and easy parking.
  • Download and use CDC’s MyMobility Plan for more tips and resources about how to make a plan to stay mobile and independent as you age. Take action now to prevent or reduce the effects of possible mobility changes.
References
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIPC). WISQARS (Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System). U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; July 2020. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars. Accessed 12 November 2021.
  2. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Traffic Safety Facts Research Note: Overview of Motor Vehicle Crashes in 2019 (Report No. DOT 813 060). U.S. Department of Transportation; December 2020. Available at: https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/813060external icon. Accessed 12 November 2021.
  3. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Traffic Safety Facts: Early Estimate of Motor Vehicle Traffic Fatalities in 2020 (Report No. DOT 813 115). U.S. Department of Transportation; May 2021. Available at: https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/813115external icon. Accessed 12 November 2021.
  4. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Traffic Safety Facts 2019: Alcohol-impaired Driving (Report No. DOT 813 120). U.S. Department of Transportation; July 2021. Available at: https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/813120external icon. Accessed 12 November 2021.
  5. Kahane CJ. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Lives saved by vehicle safety technologies and associated Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, 1960 to 2012 – Passenger cars and LTVs – With reviews of 26 FMVSS and the effectiveness of their associated safety technologies in reducing fatalities, injuries, and crashes (Report No. DOT HS 812 069). U.S. Department of Transportation; January 2015. Available at: https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/812069external icon. Accessed 12 November 2021.