Crash-Free Christmas: Avoiding Holiday Accidents

For many celebrators, the holiday season requires a lot of time on the road: trips to the mall and to parties, long treks to see family, grocery stores runs (sometimes multiple in a day, if you refuse to inventory your cupboards before you start baking, like me). Though we all celebrate differently, most of us would agree that being involved in a car accident is not how we would choose to spend the season.

According to ICBC, there is an average of 35 crashes every hour between Christmas Eve and Boxing Day, and 340 British Columbians are injured in Christmas crashes each year.

Some of the risks are obvious, and we hear about them every December. Impaired driving, though actually most fatal during the summer months in BC, can be an increased danger during the holiday season due to the number of parties and festive libations. Poor road conditions are also at the top of many peoples’ minds during December.

For these risks, we know the preventative measures to take, like arranging alternate transportation after dipping into – or full-on swimming in – eggnog, using winter tires, and staying off slick or snowy roads when possible. (In Victoria, we don’t usually go outside when it snows, but when we do, we take out a power line or end up in the ditch.)

There are also imposed safety measures for the common dangers, with the ploughing and salting of roads, and police check stops.

But while impaired driving and poor road conditions can be major factors in holiday season accidents, they are not the only risks drivers face.

ICBC recently reported that there were approximately 96,000 parking lot crashes in 2018 for which insurance claims were made. About 96% of these crashes did not involve injuries to people, only damage to vehicles, but there were over 4,000 casualties, and nearly 500 injuries were to pedestrians, not occupants of vehicles.

Though the report did not include a breakdown of crashes by month, ICBC has indicated that December has the highest number of mall parking lot crashes. The majority of crashes occur between noon and 3:00pm on Fridays and Saturdays.

For those who brick-and-mortar Christmas shop, this is probably unsurprising. December’s parking lots can be particularly wild. In addition to increased volume, seasonal stress and distraction may be factors in parking lot incidents, since, for many, December is a busy month, full of unusual challenges (remember the Hatchimals Debacle of 2016?) and lots of running around.

Wondering what you can do to reduce the likelihood of being involved in a parking lot accident? ICBC suggests the following:

  • Be karmic. Let the other person have the spot and take a different one, instead of an old-fashioned showdown.
  • Slow down.
  • Be alert. There can be a lot going on, with children running about, and other drivers making sudden moves, so it’s important to be paying attention the entire time.
  • Don’t block traffic. Don’t follow someone who is walking back to their car. It always takes longer than you think it will for them to leave, and it backs up everybody else around you.
  • Obey the usual driving rules, and don’t look at your phone.
  • Follow the signs. Not only is it unsafe to drive the wrong way in a one-way area, but it’s also embarrassing. (Trust me on that.)
  • If you’re able to walk, do it. Park a little further away, outside the chaos, and walk – with caution – through the parking lot instead.
  • Back into your spot. This allows you to drive straight out and avoid the blindspots when re-entering the lane.

Or, if you want to avoid some of the stress of parking lots and holiday driving, but aren’t prepared to order everything online, try taking the bus.

Wherever you are driving this holiday season, be aware, be patient, and be the kind of driver who would make Santa’s Nice List.

(The roads are not the only place to exercise extra caution over the holidays – putting up Christmas lights is also the source of injury for a surprising number of Canadians.)

Morgan Thomas, BA (Dtn.)
Administration Coordinator & Personal Insurance Trainer