It’s the time of year when some Iowans like to pack the family into the van at dusk, switch the radio to Christmas music, and drive around town taking in the colorful holiday light displays.
AAA-Iowa spokeswoman Meredith Mitts says if you’ll be making the rounds, remember to follow the rules of the road — and don’t stop dead on the street to take selfies.
“As you’re looking at the lights, whether they’re in a residential area or a little bit more high traffic, there are still pedestrians and other drivers around,” Mitts says. “You need to remain focused about driving on the road and if you want to enjoy the lights, make sure you find a place where you can safely pull over.”
Some spectacular holiday displays may rival Clark Griswold’s house, but while the lights are beautiful to look at, they can also be a dangerous distraction. “Make sure everybody in the car is buckled up — you are still out on the road and things happen,” Mitts says. “Make sure the driver is staying focused on the road and that you are constantly scanning the area for bicyclists, pedestrians, any young children who might be playing in the snow. And then, make sure someone other than the driver is taking photos.”
Many Iowa communities have professionally-lit light displays in parks, golf courses, arboretums, and other locations. Some are walk-through shows, but those that are the drive-through style demand drivers stay vigilant so the jolly mood isn’t wrecked by a fender bender.
“A lot of these places have lots of vehicles so make sure you’re keeping an eye on the vehicle ahead of you and going whatever the posted speed limit is,” Mitts says. “Also, remember to turn your lights back on when you are leaving the park because generally, they have you turn them off as you’re going through the park so you can enjoy the lights better.”
She suggests you make sure to have the appropriate winter gear in the car in the event of a roadside emergency. The kit should include things like: blankets, water, and snacks, a flashlight with fresh batteries, tools, a shovel, an ice scraper, jumper cables, sand, and a first aid kit.