The holidays are a joyful season for most people, but if you sustain a serious personal injury in a traffic collision, it can not only ruin the holidays – it can change your life. Tampa personal injury attorney Jeffrey Hensley explains: “The holidays are a time of joy and celebration, but they are also a time of increased anxiety. We are faced with deadlines for preparing meals, attending family gatherings, buying gifts and attending religious services. We feel pressured to do our shopping and perform our duties as best we can.”
We don’t have to worry about snow hazards in Florida, but the malls will be crowded, the interstates congested, and the big bridges will be no place for inexperienced or negligent drivers. Attorney Hensley says, “The pressure causes us to become stressed and once stressed we don’t function as well as we do otherwise. Our perception-reaction times are altered and our judgment becomes impaired. As the result of this change in our brains, we don’t drive as safely as we do during the remainder of the year.” With that in mind, let’s examine the variety of reasons that combine to make the holidays a time when extra caution is imperative for every Florida driver.
1. DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE
In the Tampa Bay area, law enforcement agencies in 2015 cited more than three thousand drivers for DUI in Pinellas County, more than 4,000 drivers in Hillsborough County, and more than a thousand motorists in Pasco County. Spring break tends to skew Florida’s DUI statistics. March is always the top month for DUI citations in Florida, but many of those drivers are students from other states. Florida residents receive more DUI citations through the holiday season.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention project that 25,000 motorists, passengers, and pedestrians will sustain personal injuries in alcohol-related traffic collisions across the U.S. this holiday season. Mothers Against Drunk Driving reports that more than half of the fatal collisions on Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve are alcohol-related. The holiday season always means heightened DUI enforcement in the Tampa Bay area, and if you’re convicted of driving under the influence, don’t expect leniency because it’s the holidays. You won’t get any.
If you celebrate with friends over this season, the best strategy is not to drink one drop if you anticipate driving, or if you do drink, arrange for a taxi, a limo, a ride-share service, or a designated driver. Rides-for-hire are abundant in the Tampa Bay area, and many of them are available 24/7/365. There is never an excuse for drinking and driving. If an intoxicated driver injures anyone, not only are the charges and the penalties more serious, but that driver could also find himself or herself in civil court on the wrong side of a personal injury lawsuit.
If you are injured during the holidays by an intoxicated driver in central Florida, a Tampa personal injury attorney can handle the case on your behalf. A personal injury lawyer will either negotiate an acceptable settlement out of court or take the case to a jury. If your case goes to trial, a good personal injury lawyer will aggressively fight for the compensation and justice you deserve.
2. MORE VEHICLES ON THE ROAD
More vehicles are on Tampa Bay’s streets and highways during the holiday season. You don’t need statistics to prove this – you can see it for yourself or ask any veteran local cabbie or bus driver. The streets around the malls are particularly packed during shopping hours in the holiday season, while traffic on the beaches and around Ybor City picks up at night. More of us are visiting or receiving holiday visitors. Commercial traffic increases as well. Winters usually mean good weather in central Florida, but with crowded streets full of drivers who are stressed out or intoxicated, even a slight shower increases the danger to drivers, passengers, and pedestrians.
3. HOLIDAY FRUSTRATION AND STRESS
Speaking of stress, this is the season when too many of us have too much on our minds and too much to accomplish. We’re trying to focus on work, complete our Christmas shopping, travel or receive visitors, and plan or attend events and celebrations – all at the same time. Stress makes drivers distracted and negligent, and it makes accidents far more likely. Rushing and fretting is the last thing a driver needs. Before you get behind the wheel, pause to take a deep breath – a couple if it’s a rough day.
4. NEGLECTED MAINTENANCE
If your brakes are mushy, your tires are bald, or your windshield is cracked, don’t put off repairs because you need money for gifts. In fact, you really shouldn’t drive at all if your vehicle isn’t in proper operating order. Safety has to be every driver’s top priority every month of the year. The following suggestions can help you to stay safe as you work, shop, and celebrate this holiday season:
- Routinely inspect your lights, windshield wipers, brakes, seatbelts, and airbags.
- In the last two years, millions of vehicles have been recalled. Make sure yours isn’t one of them. Dealerships offer repairs or replacements at no charge for recalled vehicles.
- Never text and drive, talk on the phone and drive, drink and drive, or take any intoxicating drugs – even if they’re legal – and drive.
- Don’t drive while fatigued. Get extra rest before driving any long distance. Fatigue is a leading cause of traffic collisions in Florida.
- Always use a seat belt, and if you have a child on board, use an appropriate car seat.
- Slow down in the rain, and safely pull off the road if visibility is impaired in any way.
Jeffrey Nadrich, San Bernardino car accident attorney with Nadrich & Cohen suggests that unfortunately, the streets and highways are not the only spots where people sustain serious injuries over the holidays. Retailers cram holiday merchandise onto overcrowded sales floors. Restaurants and area attractions are often crowded with long waits. At home, electric holiday lights, extra activity in the kitchen, and parties with plenty of guests mean the chances of someone sustaining a personal injury are a lot higher through the holiday season.
If someone is injured because another person was negligent – behind the wheel or anywhere else – the victim is entitled under Florida law to receive full reimbursement for medical care and for any lost wages and related loses and expenses. An experienced personal injury attorney can offer candid legal advice and help injury victims determine if they can and should file a personal injury claim.
With our relentless sunshine, sparking beaches, and average high temperatures at about 78 degrees, the holidays in Tampa Bay are a time to get out of the house, get away from the job, and celebrate. Make safety a priority this season. You do not want to be responsible for injuring someone, and you don’t want to be injured. A little forethought and common sense is usually all it really takes to keep the holidays and the new year joyful and injury-free.