Christmas Day is a time for relaxing with family and friends. In families that observe this popular holiday, children spend the morning unwrapping piles of presents while parents and other relatives prepare elaborate meals to celebrate the holiday. Many choose to commemorate the occasion with a visit to church, either on Christmas Day or the night before. Songs are sung, candles are lit, and colored lights twinkle on many of the neighborhood houses. Few would associate the “Most Wonderful Time of the Year” with car accident injuries.
Amidst all this heart-warming family time, few find themselves on the road on Christmas Day. Traffic is heavier on the road on the days before and after Christmas. However, there are always a few motorists on the road. Late last year, some drivers in Sparks became an unhappy statistic as they were involved in a five-car collision on Christmas Day that resulted in car accident injuries.
The incident took place at around round 5pm on Wednesday, December 25 at the intersection of Oddie Boulevard and El Rancho Drive at the western edge of the city of Sparks, Nevada. Five vehicles were damaged, and multiple injuries were reported. The driver who caused the crash was driving a truck on westbound Oddie Boulevard. He was travelling at high speed when he rear-ended a GMC vehicle, and both vehicles were propelled into three other vehicles. Three people in the GMC were injured, and two were listed in critical condition as of Thursday night. Following the crash, Fuentes fled the scene. He was later tracked down with the help of the public. He was subsequently charged with three felony counts of fleeing the scene of an accident, as well as charges of drunk driving causing substantial bodily harm, driving on a revoked license, failing to decrease speed, and having an open container of alcohol in the vehicle. 
Alcohol and Accidents
While there were many factors involved in this crash, one that may present a clue as to the cause of the accident is the presence of an open container of alcohol in the suspect driver’s vehicle. Alcohol and other drugs are involved in many car accident injuries and in about 40 percent of all fatal traffic crashes in the United States. Alcohol is particularly dangerous because it affects the driver’s brain in multiple ways by creating the following impairments:
- Poor judgement and problem-solving
- Blurred vision and problems focusing
- Decreased color distinction
- Slower reaction time
The combination of these effects leads to a driver who is unable to safely drive a motor vehicle and is therefore more likely to find himself or herself in a collision. 
For drivers who are over the age of 21, consuming a small amount of alcohol before driving is considered safe and legal. When a person’s blood alcohol content rises to .08 g/dl or higher, the person’s level of intoxication is above the legal limit and the person can be arrested for drinking and driving even if no car accident injuries have occurred.  It is precisely because drinking and driving is so dangerous that the law punishes someone who takes this risk regardless of whether it resulted in a car accident injury.
Speeding and Accidents
Speeding, or driving a motor vehicle above the posted speed limit, may also have been a contributing factor in causing these Sparks car accident injuries. In 2018 nearly 9,400 people were killed in speeding accidents nationwide, making it a contributing factor in more than one-quarter of all traffic fatalities. Speeding creates risks for the driver, as well as those on the road nearby. Speeding is dangerous because it creates the following conditions:
- Potential for loss of vehicle control
- Makes seat belts and air bags less effective in an accident
- Increases stopping distance
- Increases the severity of injuries in a car accident 
It is wise to always follow the posted speed limits, both to be in compliance with the law and to lower the likelihood of a car accident injury. If weather or road conditions make the posted speed unsafe, one should lower one’s speed.
The car accident injuries in Sparks were perhaps most notable because the driver at fault fled the scene, making it a hit-and-run accident. Hit-and-run fatalities are unfortunately extremely common, occurring roughly six times every day somewhere in the United States. In fact, it is estimated that Americans crash their cars and flee the scene of the accident more than 2,000 times a day. There are even horrific cases where drivers have struck a pedestrian or cyclist and continued driving with the person embedded somewhere under the car. Most drivers in hit-and-run accidents are men under the age of 25. Almost half of perpetrators are under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the collision. 
According to a study of European hit-and-run incidents, drivers decide to flee the scene for a variety of reasons. Many simply panic, their bodies going into “flight mode.” Many are worried about being caught drinking, some claim no memory of the crash, some claim they didn’t realize they needed to report the collision, and a few are worried about the police or their insurance premiums going up. For a very small group of people, the reason they flee the scene of an accident is a lack of emotion or “good moral character.”  One does not need to be a bad person to do a bad thing, but the severity of car accident injuries are such that drivers must stop and render aid to prevent valuable seconds from being wasted. https://www.kolotv.com/content/news/Multiple-vehicle-crash-reported-in-west-Sparks-566481241.html  https://www.nhtsa.gov/sites/nhtsa.dot.gov/files/alcoholanddrugs.pdf  Ibid.  https://www.nhtsa.gov/risky-driving/speeding  https://www.mercurynews.com/2018/08/23/hit-and-run-fatalities-are-increasing-in-the-us  Ibid.
Image Credit: Boris Thaser via Flickr