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Reduce holiday stress behind the wheel

Don't let traffic ruin your holiday season
Don't let traffic ruin your holiday season

Staff writers

December 21, 2012 — As the holiday buzz picks up, drivers are encouraged to make safety behind the wheel a number one priority.

Give yourself plenty of extra time to reach your destination
Give yourself plenty of extra time to reach your destination

Holiday shopping and festive parties are in full swing. 

While it can be a joyful and exciting time of year, a level of stress is inevitable--especially on the roads.

Motorists are faced with traffic jams and poor driving conditions, so experts offer these tips to ensure your holiday drive is a safe and stress-free one.

Adjust your driving habits and plan ahead 

Travelling on the roads in December and January means there's a risk of facing wintery weather conditions.

By simply adjusting your driving habits accordingly can help to reduce a sense of stress on the roads. 

"Some people get used to summer driving and underestimate the need to adjust to weather and road conditions," says Eduardo Carrera with the Travelers Network. "Remember the dangers of black ice, snow and lower visibility at this time of year." 

With everyone eager to get to their destination during the holidays, it's also important to plan ahead. Allowing some extra travel time can help to avoid the rush on the roads.

"The holidays always bring a lot of excitement and unfortunately sometimes it leads to a heavy foot on the pedal as well. Take your time and plan ahead," adds Carrera.

Installing winter tires can help reduce the risk on the roads
Installing winter tires can help reduce the risk on the roads

Drive sober

With more Canadians heading to social outings in celebration of the holiday season, police are asking drivers to make safe and sober decisions. 

Impaired driving is the leading criminal cause of death in Canada and according to officials, it's also one of the most preventable. 

"It's simple, if you plan on drinking, do not plan to drive," says Deputy Commissioner Larry Beechey with the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP). "Instead, arrange for a designated driver, take a taxi, stay overnight or take public transit."

In an effort to reduce impaired driving over the holidays, the OPP is conducting its annual Festive R.I.D.E campaign from November 24, 2012 to January 2, 2013.

Winter maintenance and safety kits 

Your time spent on the roads can be longer during the holidays, so drivers are reminded to carry a safety kit at all times.

"Aside from your standard first aid kit, it’s always good to have a candle, lighter, blanket and flashlight in the car. Also make sure that when you go on the road (even if it's just a last minute trip to the mall) you have a fully charged cell phone with you," says Carrera. 

Performing winter maintenance on your vehicle can also help to reduce possible risks involved with winter driving.

Here are some helpful things to remember before heading out:

  • Make sure you have windshield washer fluid and a spare bottle in the car in case you run out.
  • Inspect your tires to make sure they’re not worn out; if you can, get winter tires.
  • Have your brakes inspected.
  • Check your battery for corrosion and make sure the terminals are clean.
  • Check you wipers to make sure there are no cracks or splitting.
  • Make sure you headlights are clean and free of damage.
  • Get an oil change; you should get one every four months or so or every 8,000 km if you drive about 25,000 km per year.

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