Thanksgiving travel 'recipe' for road dangers

OSP, ODOT warn: Buckle up, every time

SALEM, Ore. - The Thanksgiving holiday period is one of the busiest travel times of the year, and with thousands of Oregonians hitting the road to travel long or short distances, the Oregon State Police and Oregon Department of Transportation want to remind all travelers to buckle up -- every trip, every time.

"It's no secret that more people than usual are on the roads visiting family and friends during these major holiday weekends," said Cap. Ted Phillips, director of the OSP Patrol Services Division.

"And because there will be more travelers and the potential for more traffic crashes occurring, we want everyone to remember that perhaps the single best thing they can do to save lives and protect themselves and their passengers is to regularly and properly use their safety restraints."

The Thanksgiving holiday period is the longest major holiday period of the year, covering 102 hours starting 6:00 p.m., Wednesday, November 21, and running through 11:59 p.m., Sunday, November 25.

During this holiday period, OSP and Oregon law enforcement agencies will join traffic enforcement efforts nationwide to help prevent crashes and save lives while emphasizing the importance of buckling up and driving safe and sober.

Since 1970, nearly 240 people have died on Oregon roads during the Thanksgiving holiday period, including three traffic deaths during last year's holiday period in three separate traffic crashes in Benton, Malheur and Multnomah counties. Two of the three victims were not wearing their seat belt.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration,, during the 2010 Thanksgiving holiday, 337 passenger vehicle occupants were killed in motor vehicle crashes nationwide, and 55 percent of those were unrestrained at the time of the crash.

Overnight hours (6:00 p.m. to 5:59 a.m.) prove to be the most dangerous on our nation's roadways during the Thanksgiving holiday and throughout the year because safety belt use is lower.

During the 2010 holiday period, 64 percent of nighttime fatalities involved unbelted vehicle occupants, while 41 percent of daytime fatalities involved unbelted vehicle occupants.

Carla Levinski, ODOT's Occupant Protection Program Manager, reminds adults that Oregon law requires safety belts be used properly, meaning wearing both lap and shoulder belts as intended, and urged parents to know the benefits of booster seat use over adult safety belts for young children.

"Every day of the year, but especially during more dangerous travel times like the Thanksgiving holiday and at nighttime, police and transportation safety advocates are working hard to remind everyone to always buckle up," said Levinski. "Safety belts and child safety seats save lives, so please use them every trip, every time, so you can enjoy the time you spend with your loved ones this holiday season."

In addition to travel safety reminders - "Click It or Ticket" and "Drive Sober / Save Lives" - that ODOT will display on Permanent Variable Message Signs along several major highways during the holiday weekend, OSP, Oregon State Sheriffs' Association, Oregon Association Chiefs of Police, and ODOT remind travelers of these important safety tips:

Getting Ready for the Trip
* Plan ahead to give yourself plenty of extra time to get to your destination.
* Stay informed about weather conditions, potential traffic hazards and highway closures.
* Check road conditions by visiting www.TripCheck.com or calling 5-1-1
* Make sure your vehicle is ready for winter driving starting with good tires, a good battery, and a full tank of gas.
* Carry an emergency kit and chains or traction tires, especially if traveling over mountain passes.
* Snacks and bottled water also are a good idea for long trips, especially with children.
* Carry a map in case weather or road conditions force you to take a detour. Keep family members or friends aware of any significant changes in your planned route before you take the unplanned route.
* Get plenty of rest before you leave on any trip.
* Clear snow, ice or frost from windows and headlights before you leave.
* Make sure everyone is using safety restraints and secure any cargo.
* Always have a designated driver for any holiday activities that include alcohol.
On the Road:
* Drive according to conditions. If it's wet, icy, snowy or foggy, slow down and increase your following distance behind other vehicles to at least a four-second distance. Keep in mind that conditions may not be perfect to drive at the posted speed.
* Use headlights even in daylight to help other drivers see you.
* Don't use cruise control in wet, icy, snowy or foggy conditions.
* Be patient with all the other traffic on the highways.
* Watch out for pedestrians now that the days are shorter and darker, and remember they're often in dark clothing.
* If you get tired or drowsy, stop and rest during your trip or get a rested and sober licensed driver behind the wheel.
* There are still many construction zones on our highways, and even though work will be inactive over the holiday weekend there may be equipment, detours, and incomplete changes in the roadway. Stay alert and slow down because all work zone speed limits still apply and fines increase in these areas.
* Don't drink and drive or get into a vehicle with a driver who has been drinking.
"Don't forget that in addition to more holiday travelers being on our roads, you may also face weather-related challenges including ice, snow and wet roads," said Phillips. "And always remember to report any possible intoxicated driver or dangerous driver to the Oregon State Police at 1-800-24DRUNK (1-800-243-7865) or call 9-1-1."

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