State Police Serve Up Thanksgiving Safety Tips

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WEST TRENTON – Thanksgiving weekend is traditionally the heaviest travel period of the year. To help New Jerseyans have an enjoyable and safe holiday, the New Jersey State Police offer the following safety tips:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Use a designated driver. If alcohol figures into your Thanksgiving plans, plan to have one driver stay sober.

Five people died in New Jersey in accidents during the 2010 Thanksgiving holiday period. Four of those perished in crashed that involved alcohol or drugs. There were nine deaths during the 2009 holiday period.

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 seat belt use are two of the most effective ways to protect people and reduce crash fatalities. Research has shown that when lap/shoulder belts are used properly, the risk of fatal injury to front seat passengers is reduced by 45 percent, and the risk of moderate-to-critical injury is reduced by 50 percent.

In addition, Colonel Rick Fuentes, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police, wants motorists to obey New Jersey’s Move Over Law. “Drivers need to be aware of Troopers and emergency workers on the roadways assisting those in need. Protect those protecting you by moving over or slowing down when approaching vehicles displaying emergency flashing lights,” he said. According to the Officer Down Memorial Page (, 92 law enforcement officers have lost their lives in the last decade due to being struck by a vehicle.

New Jersey’s “Move Over” law helps protect roadside emergency workers and vehicles. Such vehicles include police, fire and medical services vehicles, and also highway maintenance, tow trucks and official motorist aid vehicles displaying amber emergency lights. Where possible, drivers are required to move over to create an empty lane next to the emergency vehicle. When safely changing lanes is not possible, drivers must slow down below the posted speed limit prior to passing emergency vehicles. Drivers should also be prepared to stop, if necessary.

“We want everyone to enjoy their holiday and get to their destination safely, but drivers need to be mindful of their own safety and that of those they share the road with,” Division of Highway Traffic Safety Acting Director Gary Poedubicky said. “The temptation to drink and drive may be there during the holidays, but there is simply no excuse for it. Any time you drink and drive, you are putting yourself, your family and the public at large in great danger.”

He also urged motorists to keep their eyes on the road and not drive distracted. He urged drivers not to talk on the phone while driving and said that texting while driving is illegal in New Jersey.

For traffic statistical purposes, the official Thanksgiving holiday begins on Wednesday, Nov. 23 at 6 p.m. and ends on Monday, Nov. 28 at 6 a.m.

The roads are not the only place that people should be thinking about safety. Avoid making yourself an inviting target to criminals near shopping destinations by following the recommendations:

  • Don’t look distracted when walking through parking lots. Keep your head up and look around in order to be aware of your surroundings.
  • Don’t open your car doors, or even go stand by your car if there are suspicious people standing nearby. Instead walk back toward a lighted, busier area.
  • Keep purchased gifts in the trunk or other areas out of sight.
  • If your car’s key fob has an alarm function, have it ready in your hand as you walk towards your vehicle. You can use it to attract attention to a possibly dangerous situation.
  • Avoid dark and isolated parking areas. Spend a few extra minutes to find a parking spot that appears safe.
  • Exterior lighting is also a key crime deterrent outside of your home. Keep your entry way clear of bushes or features capable of hiding a potential attacker.
  • And finally, if you see something suspicious, don’t hesitate to contact authorities. 1-866-4-SAFE-NJ (1-866-472-3365) for non-emergency tips and, of course, 911 for emergencies.

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