Safety first

If you’re traveling this holiday season, take it easy
Dec. 13, 2012 @ 12:02 AM


This week, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced that there were 32,367 highway deaths last year, 26 percent fewer than in 2005.

The decline is great news. The deaths are not.

If you travel on the road this holiday season, keep the 32,367 in mind as you drive. We all know the highways are crowded this time of year, so let’s do ourselves and other travelers a favor and take it easy.

Leave early. Give yourself plenty of time. Buckle up. Be courteous. Be forgiving.

Don’t speed. Don’t tailgate. Don’t take risks. When the weather is bad, as it can be in December, drive extra carefully.

Especially, don’t cloud your judgment with alcohol.

According to the NHTSA, fatalities related to drunk driving dropped to 9,878 in 2011, from 10,136 in 2010. Again, the improvement is good news, and the deaths are not.

That extra drink at a Christmas or New Year’s Eve gathering may tempt us. We don’t have to let it. We can designate a sober driver. Or skip the booze altogether.

Here’s another item from the NHTSA report. Deaths related to distracted driving rose to 3,331 in 2011 from 3,267 in 2010. The administration says the rise may owe to better awareness and reporting, but still.

Those texts we want to send can wait. So can the emails, the tweets, the cat pictures on Facebook. Our eyes belong on the road, not our phones.

Air travel used to be a less stressful alternative to driving. No longer. Planes are full, airports are packed and lines are long. Tensions can run high, especially during the holidays.

We can all do our part to make air travel more efficient and pleasant for everyone. Leave early. Bring the right paperwork. Follow the rules.

We may not like what airline personnel are telling us. We may be unhappy about the policies or procedures of the Transportation Security Administration. But we don’t have to throw a tantrum.

Now is when, as the wonderful old Christmas song goes, those who are dear to us gather near to us. We travel because we want to be close to family and friends. They are our people.

But let’s remember that other drivers, other travelers, travel-industry employees – they are our people, too.

We have our humanity in common. One way or another, we’re all trying to arrive at our destinations safely.

Let’s help each other do that.