For many, Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the winter holiday season. Along with the joy of spending time with family and friends, this time of year can also be a dangerous one. Everything from colder weather to crowded roadways and unsafe cooking techniques can result in personal injuries and property damage. If injuries are severe enough, some folks may not be able to return to work for the remainder of the winter season.
Americans should remain alert during this season and take the necessary safety precautions at work, at home, and while traveling.
See below for a list of common dangers during the winter holiday season.
Common Safety Concerns in the Winter
With the seasons changing and the holidays just around the corner, there are a few extra concerns to be aware of. These include:
- Roads are more dangerous due to increased travel, traffic, and active deer populations.
- Sidewalks and roadways are more slippery due to ice formation.
- More people will drive in the dark because there’s less daylight, putting drivers at a higher risk of car accidents.
- The number of reported fires usually rises because more people are using their fireplaces and their turkey fryers.
- People get injured from setting up outdoor decorations, such as roof lighting.
It’s impossible to fully account for every potential danger related to the holiday season. However, a quick overview of the common dangers that tend to increase during this time of year can help you stay alert while engaging in day-to-day activities, like traveling between jobsites.
Roadway Safety During Late Fall and Winter
It’s not uncommon for drivers to be taken by surprise while driving this time of year. For example, Thanksgiving Thursdays tend to have a higher-than-average number of traffic fatalities.
There are a few factors influencing the jump in fatalities during Thanksgiving. For one, many drivers fail to realize just how many other drivers will also be on the road that day. Thanksgiving, not Christmas, tends to be the biggest travel holiday of the year for both airline and roadway travel.
Meanwhile, temperatures often dip below freezing in many parts of the country on and around Thanksgiving and especially in December. Nighttime driving, in particular, becomes more common and more dangerous as the number of daytime hours decreases during fall and winter. Meanwhile, deer are far more active from October to December. Taken together, this time of year is one of the most dangerous for drivers.
To help protect yourself on the road, consider doing the following:
- If driving, leave earlier in the day to avoid traffic.
- Check weather reports, and be on the lookout for black ice.
- Remember that bridges and overpasses freeze faster, so slow down when passing over these areas.
- Invest in a deer whistle for your car. If you’re renting a car while traveling, be alert for deer standing on the side of the road.
- Always keep a safe distance between yourself and other vehicles. For faster highway speeds, leave several car lengths between yourself and the vehicle in front of you.
These precautions should help you respond to incidents on the road.
Safety with Fire and Heat
Some like it hot during this time of year, making fire a major risk during the holiday season. The primary danger points during the holiday season tend to be turkey frying and lighting fires in fireplaces and wood stoves. House fires due to improper turkey-frying techniques and improperly maintained fireplaces, for example, increase dramatically during this time of year.
In fact, the U.S. Fire Administration reports that more than half of all residential fires are cooking-related, while just under 10% are related to heating elements.
Before working with fire and heat this year, consider the following precautions:
- Fry your turkey outdoors in an open area away from your home. Additionally, make sure you never drop a frozen turkey into hot oil; the excess water can cause the oil to bubble over and potentially ignite the ground.
- Keep a fire extinguisher handy when frying a turkey. Do not pour water on an oil or a grease fire.
- Have your fireplace inspected and cleaned before lighting a fire. Chimney fires can happen unexpectedly and can burn quickly.
- If using a wood stove, only use dry, well-seasoned wood. Never light a wood stove with ignition or lighter fluid.
Fire in its many forms can be a joy during the cold fall and winter months, but it can also be a hazard if not handled properly.
Putting up Lights? Be Cautious!
Along with traveling and frying turkeys, many Americans celebrate the holiday by putting up lights and outdoor decorations. Competing with your neighbors for the best holiday light show can be fun, but you could injure yourself while putting up or taking down lights and decorations. This is one of the most common holiday-related injuries.
Just as roadways can ice over and become slippery during this time of year, so, too, can roofs and walkways. Plan to install decorations on a warm, dry day. Avoid putting up lights on roofs during the night, especially not immediately following a snowy or rainy day. Allow your roof to dry completely before getting on it to put up lights and decorations.
Finally, have a friend or family member help you put up decorations. Major injuries can occur when individuals put up decorations without assistance.
The holiday season is certainly the “most wonderful time of the year.” But it’s also among the most dangerous times of the year. With a few added precautions, however, it certainly doesn’t have to be.
|Matt Timmons is a Technical Writer at ValuePenguin who works on distilling the complex details of insurance into accessible advice. He previously created educational content at Grovo Learning and MarketSmiths Content Strategists. Timmons’ consumer-focused analysis of insurance has appeared in publications like CNBC, Yahoo! Finance, and the Miami Herald.