Happy Thanksgiving, but take care on the roadways

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The Thanksgiving holiday week is one of the busiest times of the year on Chester County’s highways. State officials and safety experts are offering a tips on how you can get “over the river and through the woods” to spend time with friends and family this week, safely.

State Police kicked off their annual “Click it or Ticket” enforcement drive Monday — strongly encouraging the use of selt belts and child safety seats at all times.

In addition to enforcement efforts, Operation Safe Holiday includes no-cost child passenger safety seat fitting clinics through December 2. Troopers and other state police members certified as child passenger safety technicians will be available to assist with car seat installation and to answer any questions parents have.
“Child safety seats are required by law in Pennsylvania, but they are only effective when installed and used correctly,” said PSP Major Edward Hoke, acting deputy commissioner of staff. “Every seat is different, which is why trained child passenger safety technicians are available to personally assist parents and caregivers with their own seats and vehicles.”
Pennsylvania law mandates children under the age of four be properly restrained in an approved child safety seat. Children under two must be secured in a rear-facing car seat until the child outgrows the maximum weight and height limits designated by the manufacturer. Booster seats are required for children four to eight, to keep them protected in the event of a crash.
According to PennDOT data, during the Thanksgiving holiday travel period in 2017, including the weekend before and after the holiday as well as the day itself, there were 2,903 crashes and 21 fatalities in those crashes statewide. The Christmas and New Year’s travel periods, including the weekend before Christmas, New Year’s and the weekend after, saw 4,253 crashes and 29 fatalities.
“The most effective ways to prevent collisions on the roadways and to arrive at your holiday destinations safely is to slow down, designate a sober driver, and never drive distracted,” said PennDOT District Executive Mike Keiser, P.E. “When crashes do happen, PennDOT and first responders will work quickly to help the involved parties and keep traffic moving.”
Travelers can check up-to-the-minute traffic information statewide at www.PA511.com or the PA511 smartphone app. Additionally, conditions on the current conditions on the Pennsylvania Turnpike can be viewed at www.paturnpike.com.
The PA Turnpike Commission estimates that 3.7 million cars and trucks will travel the toll highway during the six-day Thanksgiving period. To accommodate the increase in traffic volumes, the Turnpike will suspend all scheduled maintenance and construction activities from Tuesday through Sunday.
“With the heavy traffic during our busiest travel holiday, it’s critical to move over for stopped emergency response and recovery vehicles,” said PA Turnpike CEO Mark Compton. “We must give responders the space they need to do their jobs — not to mention the respect they have earned for the work they do. Giving them a full lane to do their jobs is one way we can offer a gesture of thanks to these heroes who will sacrifice holiday family time to protect and assist travelers.”
The holiday seat belt and DUI enforcement are funded by part of PennDOT’s statewide distribution of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration enforcement monies this federal fiscal year. For more information on PennDOT’s highway safety efforts visit, www.penndot.gov/safety.
The public can join the discussion using the hashtag #PASafeHoliday.
Meanwhile, the local branch of AAA is warning about the holiday dangers of driving while impaired.
As everyone knows, the day after Thanksgiving Day is called “Black Friday.” It is the busiest retail shopping day of the year. Few people realize, however, that the day before Thanksgiving Day is dubbed “Blackout Wednesday” or “Drinksgiving” in some circles because of the heavy alcohol consumption or binge drinking done by college students and others, home for the holiday and reuniting with friends and family at bars, restaurants or homes.
“While Thanksgiving Day is a time to share meals with our loved ones, the eve of Thanksgiving is one of the most dangerous times for overindulgence in alcohol – not food,” says Jana Tidwell, manager of Public and Government Affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “While we disapprove of and fear drunk drivers on the road, a survey by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety revealed that far too many drivers aren’t practicing what they preach. There is a big disconnect in our actions and words.”
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, between 2013 and 2017, more than 800 people died in alcohol-impaired crashes during the Thanksgiving holiday period, making it one of the deadliest holidays on our roads. Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) data shows that in 2017 there were 4,509 crashes during the Thanksgiving holiday period in Pennsylvania and 26 fatalities.

The Pennsylvania State Police and hundreds of municipal police departments statewide will participate in the “Operation Safe Holiday” campaign this year to increase traffic safety enforcement beginning this week and continuing through the New Year’s holiday.

“It is never OK to get behind the wheel of a vehicle when you are buzzed or drunk,” said Tidwell.  “The risk of injury or death for yourself, passengers and others on the roads is not worth it, especially when there are other ways to get home safely. AAA Mid-Atlantic wants everyone to safely enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday with their friends and family and not have to deal with a tragedy caused by impaired driving.”

AAA reminds anyone planning to indulge in alcoholic beverages Wednesday night or anytime during the holiday season:

  • Buzzed driving is drunk driving. Don’t risk it.
  • Make a plan ahead of time to have a sober, designated driver
  • If you don’t have a designated driver, call a friend or family member, taxi or car share service such as Uber or Lyft to get you home safely
  • Never let family or friends drive if they have had too much alcohol to drink
  • If you see a drunk driver on the road, contact law enforcement

AAA works year-round to educate the public on the dangers of impaired driving in an effort to reduce traffic-related crashes and injuries.

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