Friday, November 20, 2009

Ingrediants for your Thanksgiving Holiday Traffic Safety Recipe

Highway travel is expected to again be heavy during the 2009 Thanksgiving holiday week as families pile into their cars and head off for their destinations. To keep one's joyful holiday from turning into a tragedy, state, county and city police agencies will be working together to save lives and prevent injuries on Oregon's roads during the longest holiday period of the year.

"There are a few ingredients we urge everyone to remember to include in their ‘traffic safety recipe'," said Oregon State Police (OSP) Superintendent Timothy McLain. "Drive carefully, alert and sober are a few key ingredients and, of course, buckle up each and every trip, night or day."

During the 102-hour holiday period starting 6:00 p.m., Wednesday, November 25th, through 11:59 p.m. Sunday, November 29th, OSP troopers will be joining the 32nd annual national Operation C.A.R.E. (Combined Accident Reduction Effort) program. Troopers are joining county sheriff deputies and city police officers in Oregon and around the country to reduce crashes, injuries and deaths on our highways and streets. In conjunction with Operation C.A.R.E., police officers will be involved with a special crackdown – Click it or Ticket – for people who refuse to use safety restraints during Thanksgiving.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), nationally during the 2008 Thanksgiving holiday period, 389 passenger vehicle occupants died in motor vehicle crashes. Two of last year's traffic fatalities occurred in Oregon, the lowest reported number of Thanksgiving holiday traffic deaths since 1999. One of Oregon's deaths was a pedestrian attempting to cross Interstate 5, and the other was in an alcohol and speed-involved crash on Interstate 5 in southwest Portland.

Nighttime is the most dangerous time on the road because safety belt use is lower. Nearly two-thirds of the 2008 Thanksgiving holiday period traffic fatalities occurred during nighttime. Sixty-seven (67) percent of those deaths were people who did not have their safety belts fastened.
"Regular seat belt use is the single most effective way to protect people and reduce fatalities in motor vehicle crashes. Unfortunately, some people seem willing to risk getting a ticket, or worse, getting killed or injured because they didn't take a second to buckle up before driving," said Tillamook County Sheriff Todd Anderson.

According to NHTSA, research has shown that when lap and 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 serious injury is reduced by 50 percent.

While Oregon continues to be in the top three states nationally for safety restraint usage rates, as seen in two tragic November crashes too many children and adults still are failing to click the safety belt buckle. Carla Levinski, ODOT's Occupant Protection Program Manager, stressed these important reminders about Oregon's safety belt laws:

* Child passengers must be restrained in approved child safety seats until they weigh forty pounds. Infants must ride in rear-facing seats until they reach both one year of age AND twenty pounds.

* Children over forty pounds must use boosters to 4'9" tall unless they have reached age eight.

* Even if your holiday dinner has made your safety belt use uncomfortable, please do not take it off until you are safely at your destination and ready to get out of your vehicle.

OSP offices are putting the final touches on problem-oriented plans, focusing enforcement efforts in known areas and associated crash factors including the ongoing problem of impaired drivers. Last year, OSP troopers reported 53 DUII arrests.

OSP and ODOT remind travelers to use (or call 5-1-1) for the latest road conditions, paying close attention to your travel routes while keeping up on unexpected weather and road conditions. The recipe for safety during this holiday period should include:

Getting Ready for the Trip

* Plan ahead to give yourself plenty of extra time to get to your destination.
* Stay informed through the media regarding weather conditions, potential traffic hazards and highway closures.
* Check road conditions by visiting or calling 5-1-1
* Make sure your vehicle is ready for winter driving starting with good tires, a good battery and full tank of gas, especially if heading over mountain passes.
* 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 long trips.
* 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.

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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