Buckle up before getting on the road this Thanksgiving

Published 3:33 pm Tuesday, November 26, 2019

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The Georgia State Patrol, local law enforcement officers, and the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety are kicking off Thanksgiving week with a reminder to motorists to always wear their seat belt.

Those who do not comply with Georgia’s seat belt law may come down with a case of “Click It or Ticket” indigestion since state troopers, sheriff’s deputies, and police officers will also kickoff the holiday travel week by conducting seat belt enforcement road checks around the state.

“Troopers and Motor Carrier Compliance officers will be out in full force during this Thanksgiving holiday period,” Georgia Department of Public Safety Commissioner Col. Mark McDonough said. “Thanksgiving is one of the most widely traveled holidays of the year and because of that, motorists should expect heavier traffic throughout the holiday. In order to make traveling safer, motorists should drive the legally posted speed limit, have every person in their vehicle properly restrained, and never drive distracted or impaired.”

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Why is it so important? Because during the 2017 Thanksgiving travel period (6 p.m. on Wednesday, November 22 to 5:59 a.m. on Monday, November 27), 365 people were killed in traffic crashes nationwide.

Nighttime proved even more deadly as it accounted for 57 percent of crashes during the Thanksgiving travel period.

In 2018, traffic crashes across Georgia during the 102-hour Thanksgiving travel period (6 p.m. on November 22 to 11:59 p.m. on November 25) resulted in 15 fatalities. In addition to the crashes, the Georgia State Patrol alone issued 11,523 citations, 17,046 warnings and arrested 339 people for driving under the influence.

The best defense against all of those careless drivers is a buckled seat belt.

“More than half the people killed in traffic crashes in Georgia last year were not wearing a seat belt and many of those who died likely would be alive today had they clicked that seat belt,” GOHS Director Allen Poole said. “Drivers need to make sure all children are buckled up and kids under the age of 8 are riding, as Georgia law requires, in the child safety or booster seat that is recommended for their size and weight.”

Law enforcement are also reminding everyone to make sure they make it to the dinner table by not drinking and driving. 

Thanksgiving Eve has become a popular time for many to go out to see hometown friends and too many times these nights end in tragedy. According to NHTSA, there have been more alcohol-related fatal crashes surrounding the Thanksgiving holiday weekend than any other holiday period during the year. If alcohol is part of the reunion plans, family members and friends need to arrange a sober ride home before the night begins. 

“Don’t let a DUI crash ruin what is supposed to be a great time of fellowship with family and friends,” Poole said. “Be a good friend by making sure that no one gets behind the wheel when they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs.  The best way to do that is to make that plan for a sober ride home before the night begins.”

Another option for those who are too impaired to drive is AAA’s Tow-To-Go program, which will be offering free tows and rides up to 10 miles from Wednesday, Nov. 27 to 6 a..m. on Sunday, Dec. 1 this year. Those interested in the free ride can visit https://autoclubsouth.aaa.com/safety/tow_to_go.aspx for more information or call (855) 2-TOW-2-GO.

The good news is all motorists can use the following tips to stay safe, focused, sober and patient while traveling:

Plan ahead for a sober ride. Arrange for a designated driver, use a rideshare service or program the numbers for cab companies into your phone. You can also plan to use public transportation, but check schedules ahead of time in case service is altered during the holiday.

Don’t try to make up time by speeding. Because of extra traffic on the road, leave for your destination earlier than needed to allow for increased travel time.

Make sure everyone in your vehicle is wearing their seat belt and all children under 8 are riding in an approved child passenger safety seat or booster seat.

Limit driver distractions by staying off phones. Program GPS before you get on the road or have a passenger be in charge of navigation.

Take breaks to avoid drowsy driving: Plan rest stops as needed and alternate drivers if possible.

For more information on the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety’s (GOHS) seatbelt and impaired driving awareness programs, visit https://www.gahighwaysafety.org.  Follow GOHS on social media at www.facebook.com/gahighwayafety, @gohsgeorgia on Twitter and Instagram,