With millions of people across the country hitting the roads for holiday travel in the coming weeks, the risk of accidents skyrockets – especially when winter weather rears its head.

December is one of the worst months for driving, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In fact, December 23rd and 24th are consistently among the deadliest days of the year for traffic accidents.

So how can you stay safe on the roads this holiday season? Even though you don’t have control over other drivers, you can still take steps to protect yourself and your passengers. For example:

  • Slow down: Speed is one of the biggest factors that contribute to fatal car crashes. Exceeding the posted speed limit isn’t the only way to put yourself in danger. Driving too fast for the conditions – especially in snow, sleet, fog or limited visibility – can also lead to deadly consequences.
  • Allow extra stopping distance: Snow and ice simply don’t give your tires the traction they need to stop suddenly. In heavy traffic, accidents frequently involve a domino effect, with each car following much too closely behind the others. In normal highway conditions, you should allow at least a two-second cushion between your vehicle and the car in front of you. In wet or foggy conditions, you should double that time. Snowy or icy conditions call for a 7- or 8-second distance.
  • Beware of black ice: Any time the temperatures drop below freezing, there’s a danger of black ice – a thin sheet of ice that’s transparent, making it hard to see. Watch for glossy patches of darker pavement, especially around overpasses, bridges and intersections.
  • Watch out for drunk drivers: Unfortunately, far too many buzzed or drunk drivers hit the road around the holidays – especially New Year’s Eve. Try not to drive at night if you can help it. If you see warning signs of a drunk driver – such as swerving, speeding, drifting across lane lines or other erratic behaviors – steer clear of that driver and alert the police.
  • Make sure your car is in safe working condition: Broken down on the side of the highway is a dangerous situation any time of year, especially during winter weather or heavy holiday traffic. Keep your vehicle well-maintained to reduce the risk of getting stranded.

The holidays should be a time of celebration with family and friends. Unfortunately, for some, it becomes a season of mourning. By practicing safe driving habits, you can reduce your risk of being involved in a tragic traffic accident.