COLUMBUS — Black Friday, known as the official kickoff to the holiday shopping season, has another unfortunate distinction: the start of increased intersection crashes, especially around busy shopping corridors.
According to the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT), in 2011, holiday crashes from Thanksgiving to New Year’s increased 24 percent, injuries 18 percent and serious injuries 12 percent when compared with the monthly average for intersection crashes throughout the rest of the year.
“It takes constant vigilance and awareness of what’s going on around you to prevent crashes, injuries and fatalities during the holiday shopping season,” said ODOT Director Jerry Wray. “Motorists need to park their phones and other electronic devices and pay attention to the road.”
ODOT reports that 410 intersection crashes resulted in serious injuries during the 2011 holiday period – an 18 percent increase over the 348 the prior year. While intersection crashes were up, total crashes for the holiday period declined nearly 5 percent from 14,624 in 2010 to 13,938 last year. Many intersection crashes can be attributed to drivers making left-hand turns at intersections and driveways. Drivers often misjudge the speed and distance of on-coming traffic or become impatient while waiting to turn, leading them to take greater risks.
Driver distraction often plays a costly and sometimes deadly role.
Ohio’s new law banning texting while driving went into effect in August. Under the law, adult drivers face a $150 fine for texting or reading/sending an email. If you’re under age 18, it’s illegal to use any mobile communications device while driving in Ohio.
“This means no texting, e-mailing, talking on your mobile phone, playing video games or programming your GPS, even when sitting at a light or stuck in traffic,” Wray said. “Your life might depend on it.”
ODOT offers the following tips to be a safe driver this holiday season:
• Always wear your seatbelt.
• Never drink alcohol and drive.
• Avoid distractions while driving, including using cell phones and other electronic devices.
• Slow down and look carefully at surrounding traffic when approaching driveways and intersections, and when driving in parking lots.
• Even with a green light, look both ways before entering an intersection.
• Don’t tailgate. Maintain a safe stopping distance between you and the car ahead.
• Shop during non-peak hours to avoid congestion.
To learn more, visit www.everymove.ohio.gov.