WEST TRENTON – Thanksgiving is traditionally the heaviest travel day of the year, a day when people want to be with family, or close friends. During the Thanksgiving holiday, more motorists are traveling with their families than any other time of the year. Displaying dangerous driving behaviors not only endangers the life of the driver but also the lives of their passengers and other motorists.
During the 2009 Thanksgiving holiday, there were seven motor vehicle accidents resulting in nine deaths. That compares to the 2008 holiday period where there were nine motor vehicle accidents resulting in nine deaths. Although there was a decrease in motor vehicle accidents in 2009, the amount of people who lost their lives did not change. This highlights the fact that drivers are not solely responsible for their own well-being when they put themselves behind the wheel.
To deter dangerous driving behavior, additional state police patrols will strictly enforce hazardous violations, including the failure of vehicle occupants to wear seatbelts. Sober driving and regular seat belt use are two of the most effective ways to protect people and reduce fatalities in motor vehicle crashes. Research has shown that when lap/shoulder belts are used properly, the risk of fatal injury to front seat passenger car occupants is reduced by 45 percent, and the risk of moderate-to-critical injury is reduced by 50 percent.
There are some common sense things all drivers can do to increase the chance of a trouble free trip this holiday:
* Steer clear of “road ragers.” Challenging an aggressive driver for a position is a dangerous way to get to your destination a few seconds sooner.
* Prepare before you drive. Map your route; fill your tank; check your tire pressure, lights and wiper blades. These simple steps may save you more than time on the highways.
* Use a designated driver. If alcohol figures into your Thanksgiving activities, plan to have one driver stay sober.
* Insist that all vehicle occupants use seatbelts.
* Don’t drive drowsy. The symptoms of driving tired are similar to those of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Make sure you get enough rest.
“The goal of New Jersey motorists and the State Police should be the same: to have a fatality free Thanksgiving holiday,” said Colonel Rick Fuentes, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “Motorists can do their part by driving responsibly, wearing seat belts, and staying focused on the road. Troopers will be there to stop and ticket those who don’t.”
Col. Fuentes also reminds drivers to use additional caution when driving through construction zones. Most construction zones will not be actively worked on during the holiday travel period, but lane shifts and shoulder closings require all motorists to be extra cautious.
According to Division of Highway Traffic Safety Acting Director Gary Poedubicky, the Thanksgiving holiday weekend is traditionally one of the busiest and most dangerous times to be on the roadways.
“We’re reminding motorists to always practice good driving behaviors, particularly during this busy travel time on the roads,” Poedubicky said. “Motorists should never drink alcohol and drive, be sure to buckle up, and avoid the use of cell phones while driving. By following these simple rules of the road, we can ensure that everyone has a safe and happy Thanksgiving and arrives safely at their destination.”
The New Jersey Department of Transportation and New Jersey Turnpike Authority are supporting safe driving efforts by lighting up the variable message boards with safety messages. Warnings including “Thanksgiving Drunk Driving Enforcement Crackdown,” will be broadcast over the state’s highways from Wednesday through Sunday
The official Thanksgiving Holiday begins on Wednesday, November 24th at 6:00 p.m. and ends on Monday, November 29th at 6:00 a.m.
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