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We want you to have a safe and enjoyable holiday season, so here are a few things to think about before the celebrations begin.

According to NHTSA Highway Safety Funding , there were 821 crashes involving fatalities in Indiana in 2015 – with 178 of them being alcohol-impaired driving fatalities.

Thanksgiving holiday weekend is the most popular holiday for Americans to travel to visit family and friends. Blackout Wednesday, the night before Thanksgiving, is one of the biggest drinking days of the year. Combine the biggest drinking day with the highest travel holiday, and accidents are bound to happen.

Being both a major holiday (one where government services, such as the Post Office and local libraries shut down and many employers give time off) and occurring on a weekday, the number of auto accidents that occur on Thanksgiving day are much more consistent than for other holidays, like Christmas and New Year’s. These two latter holidays see fluctuations largely based on whether they occur on a weekend or a weekday.

The increase in the number of auto accidents is partly rooted in the substantial (more than 50 percent) increase in traffic on the roads. But it is also pushed up due to an increase in the incidence of drinking and driving. Holiday celebrations and family gatherings often involve the consumption of alcohol.

Sadly, drinking and driving often hurts more than just the drunken driver. Although a car crash can involve a single vehicle, many of them involve two or more vehicles. Even if it’s a single car accident, there may be passengers on board. In either of these cases, other parties are also subjected to personal injury caused by drunk driver.

Although everyone is aware that it is a problem to drink and drive, far fewer people think about other risks that drinking can cause – i.e. poor impulse control and people saying or doing things they wouldn’t normally say or do. What might normally be a calm exchange of words between those of differing opinions, can escalate to full-blown physical altercations – in public or at family gatherings- resulting in personal injury or even death.

You cannot control the actions of others, whether on the road or off, but there are some things you can do to reduce the risk of injury for yourself, loved ones and guests this holiday season. Here are a few tips to make this a safer season:

• Volunteer to be the Designated Driver
• If you are hosting, stop serving alcohol an hour before the party ends.
• If you plan to drink, arrange alternate transportation home beforehand. This prevents you from needing to make an important judgment call while under the influence.
• If you are hosting, help guests arrange alternate transportation or let them stay the night rather than letting them get behind the wheel after a night of drinking.
• Most alcohol related accidents occur between midnight and 3 a.m., so avoid the roads during those hours this holiday season.
• End your party by 11:30 p.m. so your guests can get home before midnight, therefore helping them avoid being on the roads during the most dangerous hours.
• Host holiday events that do not revolve around alcohol. Promote good food and sober good times as an alternative.
• If there is unpleasant history with certain individuals, think through how to avoid having this turn into a fight at a party or family gathering before you run into them.

Remember, most accidents do not “just happen.”  Drinking and traveling contribute to more accidents. A high percentage of accidents are really a case of failure to think things through or to plan ahead. If you know you will be drinking this holiday season, or spending time with others who are drinking (especially those whom which you do not get along), plan beforehand how to handle it, so it is less likely to end in tragedy.

Of course, even if you do everything right, other people can still be the cause of tragedy, especially on the roads. If an altercation results in injury or there is a personal injury caused by drunk driver, you should contact an attorney as soon as possible. Soft tissue injuries are not always readily apparent, so do not think you are fine just because you seem fine at the moment of the event.

Many insurance companies look for a reason to deny a claim, rather than looking for reason to approve and pay. Waiting can cause you to forget pertinent details and it can allow evidence to disappear.

Often times, an initial legal consultation is free, so do not hesitate to start a paper trail, just in case. Right now would be a good time to put a few phone numbers on a business card and stick it in your wallet. Be prepared and have a safe and enjoyable holiday season.