Authorities Eye Drunk Driving, Car Thefts During Holiday Season

It’s the holidays, and there might be more than just the weather outside that’s frightful.

Authorities say that drunk drivers and car thefts warrant a wary eye during the holiday season, when both become more prominent problems for motorists across the U.S.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) began its holiday crackdown on drunk drivers last week under its “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” media campaign, also releasing its latest state-specific report on drunk driving.

According to the report, 4 percent of the 9,878 people killed in crashes linked to drunk driving last year occurred in the second half of December.

Enforcement campaigns will include both “high visibility” efforts, including NHTSA advertising on television and radio, and “low visibility” efforts, including police who are specifically assigned to “observing alcohol-impaired individuals and then apprehending them when they attempt to drive their vehicles,” according to an agency statement.

“The holiday season can be an especially dangerous time on our nation’s roadways due to drunk drivers—that’s why law enforcement officers will be out in full force,” said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood said in a statement. “Our message is simple: drive sober or get pulled over.”

According to NHTSA crash data, there are actually fewer fatalities during the winter holidays than during those at other times of the year.

In 2010, New Year’s Day and Christmas each showed lower traffic death figures than Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day and Thanksgiving. In fact, Christmas showed the lowest number of deaths of any holiday of the year, followed by New Year’s Day.

However, New Year’s Day showed the highest percentage of alcohol-related deaths than any other holiday of the year, with nearly half of the traffic fatalities during that period linked to alcohol.

The NHTSA is even looking past the holiday season with its anti-drunk-driving efforts, already posting its marketing materials online that urge football fans to find a designated driver for the NFL’s Super Bowl in early February.

Christmastime Down, New Year’s Up for Car Thieves

A report from the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) showed that, in 2011, Christmas and New Year’s Day were on opposite ends of the spectrum in car thefts.

New Year’s Day in 2011 saw 2,286 thefts across the U.S., with the holiday closely outranked only by Halloween, which saw 2,328 thefts, according to the NICB analysis of National Crime Information Center (NCIC) data.

But New Year’s Eve is also a time that cars are more exposed to thieves. In 2011, that holiday saw 1,947 thefts, making it the holiday with the fifth-highest theft figure.

On the other end, Christmas showed the lowest number of thefts of the 11 holidays examined in the analysis; the 1,347 thefts occurring on Christmas Day in 2011 was also the lowest number of thefts of any day that year.
Christmas Eve landed two spots above Christmas Day in the holiday rankings, with 1,797 thefts that year.

Consumers wanting to protect themselves should consider getting quotes for comprehensive coverage, a portion of the policy covering against instances of theft, vandalism and weather-related damage. About 3 out of every 4 policyholders buy that optional type of coverage, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Insurers often suggest including it in a policy because it covers a wide range of incidents that, compared with its cost, secures motorists against many mishaps.

But even policyholders with comprehensive coverage should know that the portion of their policy covering theft doesn’t apply to personal items (e.g., gifts) stolen from the vehicle. So, even if you’re filled with the Christmas spirit, try to hide your goodies when leaving them in the car.”

Aside from purchasing additional coverage, a driver can protect him or herself against theft with simple common sense. The NICB suggests “parking in well-lit areas, keeping packages in the trunk or out of sight, and making sure your vehicle is locked while it’s parked.”

About John Pirro
John Pirro is a licensed fire and casualty insurance agent specializing in various aspects of the auto insurance industry. He worked in the auto body repair industry before taking a reporting position at Online Auto Insurance News.

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