6 ways to maintain holiday cheer on the roads this year

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AAA estimates 107.3 million Americans will travel by plane, train or automobile this holiday season. In addition to traveling to family gatherings, people are rushing from store to store in search of last-minute gifts.

Before you cut someone off in traffic or honk at the slow driver in the fast lane, take a moment to reflect on the spirit of the season. Peace on Earth, good will toward men, remember?

Here are a ways to bring some Christmas cheer into you holiday driving.

1. Don't park in a blue spot. Last month, DMV reports it caught 132 people fraudulently misusing disabled person placards. Since July, they've caught 881 people misusing the tags.

Don't use someone else's disabled person placard to get prime parking. And don't park in a designated handicapped spot if you're not disabled. A disabled person often can't navigate his or her wheelchair into a business without access to those spots. Respect their right to shop like everyone else.

2. Park in one spot. No matter how large or expensive your vehicle, don't be the person who takes up two parking spots. Whether it's careless parking or intentional hogging, taking over two spaces is especially rude during the holidays. Respect your fellow drivers and park between the lines.

3. Practice polite patience. Sure, it's hectic this time of year, and traffic is always a mess. Don't let anxiety get the best of you. When the driver in the lane next to you needs to merge, let them merge. Slow down so the pedestrian can cross at the crosswalk. You will not arrive at your destination any sooner by driving rudely.

4. Be a courteous host. When you're driving with others, you're the host of your vehicle. Open the door for Aunt Mabel. Get the heater started before your family hops in the car. Drive the speed limit and take turns gently so your passengers don't fall on top of one another.

5. Practice good carpool habits. When traveling with friends, help pay for gas and bridge tools. Pitch in for snacks. Help load and unload the car. If it's a long drive, offer to drive for a bit.

6. Don't drink, drug or distractedly drive. The U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports drunk drivers play a role in 40 percent of traffic deaths over Christmas and New Year's. With more holiday parties and days off work, combined with holiday-related depression, more people turn to booze to either celebrate or cope.

Don't risk an expensive DUI over the holidays. Appoint a designated driver, take public transportation or use a rideshare if you want to imbibe. If you do abstain and drive this holiday season, turn off or silence your phone to avoid distraction.

Take extra care this season to drive considerately and safely. Driving aggressively won't save you time. It will only add to your frustration and increase your risk of accident. Take a few deep breaths, sing a Christmas Carol and wish your fellow drivers Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

Where will you travel this holiday season? Let us know in the comments below!

Photo by Mattias Ripp, Flickr

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