Think safety at holiday time

Even though the holiday season is still a few weeks away, stores are already putting Christmas items on the shelves, making it hard not to be festive.

During this happy time, as most of us are busy preparing for holiday feasts, buying Christmas gifts and planning trips, we need to remember safety.

Not to shed doom and gloom on this wonderful time of the year, but it?s important to slow down and think about the immediate tasks at hand.

When people hurry for whatever reason, the chances of having an accident increase exponentially. Some heartbreaking examples can involve automobile accidents, falling down or being a victim of a crime.

The Kansas Highway Patrol has a website listing accidents that happen throughout the state. It?s eye-opening to read some of these reports and then think about the judgment errors we have all made.

In the past few months, KHP has responded to quite a few fatality accidents, some involving the driver crossing the centerline and being hit head-on by a vehicle in the opposite lane.

The reasons for this type of accident vary. Reports indicated a driver may have fallen asleep, was texting, or was distracted in some other way.

A KHP study on cell-phone use done last summer indicated that mobile devices did impact a person?s attention when driving.

The report stated: ?We humans tend to deceive ourselves at times regarding self-indulgences. We make excuses to justify our actions. I was behind one such person recently who was all over a two-lane road (both lanes), changing speeds, weaving and unconcerned by their lack of attention to driving. Thankfully, they were not involved in an incident while I was behind them.?

Many people will insist they are not distracted while driving and using their cell phone. The point is that these drivers are kidding themselves and can be a danger to themselves and others.

KHP provides statistics when motorists drive during holidays, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year?s, but also Super Bowl, St. Patrick?s Day, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day and Halloween.

I was surprised to see Halloween on the list. Even more surprising was that Halloween accidents were higher than an average Friday-through-Monday period.

What really surprised me was that on all the other holidays, the number of accidents was lower than an average reporting period.

Drivers don?t always change bad habits just because it?s the holidays. Speeding, for example, is a habitual driver behavior, and if some motorists are speeding during regular times of the year, they are probably in a real hurry during the holidays.

According to the KHP, drivers speed because they are in a hurry, are inattentive to their driving, don?t think traffic laws apply to them or don?t think their behavior is dangerous. Most believe they won?t get caught.

The reality is that speeding results in the loss of thousands of lives each year. We all need to slow down.

Whether it?s automobile accidents or slips and falls, let?s be aware of our surroundings and stay safe during the holidays and all year.

With the arrival of winter, snow and ice can play havoc on boots and shoes. It is better to walk slowly and carefully.

If we start thinking about what we need to do that day, or pay more attention to carrying bags rather than walking, we put ourselves in danger.

While shopping in a larger city, watch out for pickpockets and other criminals. Reduce your vulnerability by being mindful of your surroundings and where you place your valuables.

If we all take it easy and think about what we are doing, it will be a safe and happy holiday season.