Why watching out for drunk drivers should be your No. 1 holiday priority

Festivities and awkward family gatherings aside, holidays are hazardous for American motorists. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, there's no deadlier time of year when it comes to drunk driving accidents. In December 2015, for instance, some 840 souls were lost in DUI crashes, which was around eight percent of that year's total.

The problem is close to home

Ohio is by no means exempt from this nationwide epidemic. About one-third of the state's fatal wrecks in 2015 involved some form of driver impairment. Although the dangers of drunk driving are well-known, police in Toledo and other cities are continually forced to increase their patrol frequencies to keep up with the number of DUI drivers out on the roads during holidays.

Taking steps to stay safe

So how can motorists protect themselves? In addition to making plans to avoid impaired driving, Ohioans need to be extra diligent in observing what's going on around them.

Defensive driving is a must during the holidays. This is a great time to increase the amount of distance that you typically leave between yourself and the vehicles nearby.

It's also wise to avoid maneuvers that could land you in trouble. For instance, turning without using your signals or traveling overly fast are recipes for trouble. If at all possible, avoid late-night driving, and always be cautious when you're passing through intersections.

Dealing with DUI encounters

How do you respond to suspected drunk drivers? It's not enough to simply give them their distance and let them go on their merry way.

Always do your fellow motorists the favor of reporting potential DUI drivers to 911. Getting someone off the road so they don't cause an accident up ahead raises your own chances of completing the rest of your journey uneventfully. Of course, you'll still have to survive your in-laws and other relatives at holiday gatherings, but those are much better odds than coming through a DUI wreck without serious personal injuries.

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