Tips to Help You Stay Safer and Less Stressed at the Wheel

Have a safer holiday season by doing a little planning and then staying focused while you’re on the road

watercolor painting of a red van driving towards a busy shopping center, a sign in the corner reads drive slowly

’Tis the season for crowds, traffic and drivers who are in a hurry. Keep these culprits from dampening your seasonal spirit. Here are three driving-related holiday safety tips.

When parking lots are packed

The scenario: Aggressive or thoughtless drivers in store parking lots during the holidays are about as welcome as the Grinch. Busy parking areas—whether at a supermarket or a sprawling mall—can lead to more fender-benders and collisions, including cars hitting pedestrians. Watch for all pedestrians —as well as for vehicles backing out.

Holiday safety tip: Head to stores during off-peak hours such as weekday mornings and dinnertime, choose faraway parking spots to avoid congestion (think of the walk as stress-relieving exercise), and use all your mirrors and your backup camera as you’re entering or leaving a space. Unfortunately, damage to your car can also occur while you’re shopping. So pick your spaces with care; those on either end of a row are exposed to other vehicles only on one side—which could reduce your risk for door dings by half.

When you’re rushed

The scenario: The lack of time and energy during the holidays can be a major source of stress, which can lead to aggressive and distracted driving—including speeding and dangerous multitasking. In general, driving during prime shopping season can spur anxiety, when the roads are busier and everyone is in a hurry. Driving in early evening darkness and driving at night in the rain with lights reflecting off wet pavement can worsen an already stressful situation.

Holiday safety tip: Build plenty of travel time into your schedule, check traffic and weather in advance, and plug your destination into your GPS before you start driving. Also, be sure your car’s windows aren’t fogged up or iced over. (It’s easier and safer to clear them before you start driving.) Once you hit the road, stay focused on driving. Need to check your phone, take a call or send a text? Pull over. It’s super stressful—and downright dangerous—to interact with your phone while driving. If you have passengers who can help you, put them to work! Instead of distracting you, they can assist you. Ask them to manage your phone, help you navigate, keep an eye on traffic, scope out parking spots, etc. (Remind them it’s the season of giving.)

When your normal routine is out the window

The scenario: The season takes you out of your typical schedule, leaving you more vulnerable to flubs like locking yourself out of your car. Although more vehicles have smart fobs that enable locking or unlocking doors and starting the engine, some drivers still rely on traditional keys.

Holiday safety tip: Go through a short mental checklist after every drive: Double-check that your engine is off and there are no warning tones. Keep your keys on you and put a hand on them before closing car doors. Just in case, have the AAA Mobile app handy: Lockout help from 24-hour AAA Roadside Assistance is just a tap away.

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