AAA Bluegrass: How to stay safe behind the wheel this New Year’s

It’s one of the deadliest times to drive — AAA predicts 582,000 West Virginians are traveling during the holiday period through New Year’s.

That’s about a third of the state’s population and 90 percent travel by car.

On this New Year’s weekend be sure you stay focused on the road, even though hours out there driving back from holiday festivities can get difficult. Go ahead and stop if you need to.

“That also gives you a break mentally, so that you hopefully are more refreshed when you get back behind the wheel. If you can — start your trip back in the morning so that maybe you can beat some of that traffic,” said AAA Bluegrass public affairs manager Lori Weaver Hawkins. “But we don’t want folks to get aggressive behind the wheel and let those emotions take over. Aggressive driving includes not only tailgating but also changing lanes abruptly, things like speeding and running traffic lights.”

New Year’s is a dangerous time for impaired driving crashes.

“There are about 10,000 people killed every year, and even slightly more than that due to drunk driving crashes,” Hawkins said. “And unfortunately New Year’s time period we always see a spike in those types of crashes.”

If you’re planning to go to a friend’s house or to a bar to celebrate the new year — before you ever head out be sure to have a plan in place and schedule a ride-share.

“Or make sure there’s a designated driver in your group. You do not want to get behind the wheel impaired, even buzzed,” said Hawkins. “People think, ‘Well, I’ll just have a little bit — I’ll just be fine. No, buzzed driving is also driving impaired.”

If you are hosting a new year’s get-together, Hawkins recommends festive non-alcoholic drinks, in addition to alcoholic drinks for your guests.

“That gives those who are designated drivers the opportunity to still take part in that new year’s celebration but they don’t have to worry about getting home and possibly getting behind the wheel impaired,” Hawkins said.

According to the AAA public relations manager, New Year’s is a perfect storm for trouble and drunk driving crashes. People tend to think: ‘If I live in a rural area with not a lot of traffic and I drive slowly I can get home.’

“That is just dangerous thinking and thinking that often comes about after the party has started,” she said. “So that’s why I always urge people to have a plan in place ahead of time. You can meet oncoming traffic, even in these rural areas.”

Hawkins says celebrate the new year; it’s an exciting time.

“But do so safely. We certainly don’t want somebody’s holiday marred by a tragedy,” said the public relations manager.

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