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FRANKFORT -- With fuel prices hovering around $1.85 a gallon, KSP expects increased traffic on the roadways this holiday. Thanksgiving is the most dangerous holiday of the year for motorists, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
This includes the four-day holiday driving period surrounding that date when heavy traffic, weather and long-distance road trips combine to create severe travel conditions. Often, family celebrations include alcohol, which later evolves into impaired driving.
Add that to heavy holiday traffic, and you have a recipe for disaster.
Last year, traffic crashes across Kentucky claimed the lives of 10 people during the Thanksgiving travel period including 1,083 traffic crashes with 212 injuries during that time frame.
“The Thanksgiving holiday weekend is traditionally one of the most traveled weekends of the year,” said KSP Commissioner Rodney Brewer. “To ensure we all make it to our destinations safely, Troopers will be on Kentucky roadways looking for unsafe driving practices including safety belt and impaired driving violations.”
“It’s the simple, common sense things that can make a crucial difference such as wearing a seat belt, reducing your speed and avoiding driving after consuming alcohol or drugs,” notes Brewer.
The official 2008 Thanksgiving holiday enforcement period begins at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 26 and extends through 11:59 p.m. on Sunday.
Kentucky has a zero tolerance policy regarding driving while impaired by alcohol. Operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol level of .08 will result in an immediate arrest, says Captain Tim Lucas, Commander of the Highway Safety Branch.
“Even first time offenders face immediate arrest, which can result in court costs, legal fees, higher auto insurance rates, fines, loss of license and even imprisonment,” he adds.
Through Nov. 19, Kentucky has recorded 711 highway fatalities in 2008. This is a decrease of 55 fatalities for the same time period in 2007.
“Even though fatalities have decreased, we must remain vigilant in bringing awareness to all drivers, the importance of exercising safe driving habits,” said Lucas. “These needless deaths are tragic and preventable.”
Kentucky law requires that all passengers in a vehicle wear safety belts, including children. In July, Governor Beshear signed new booster seat legislation requiring children under age seven and between 40 and 50 inches to be secured in a booster seat. Children under 40 inches are required to be in an approved child safety seat.
An additional focus this holiday season is promoting awareness between motorists and truck drivers about sharing the road. Lieutenant Colonel Mitch Bailey, Division Director for KSP Commercial Vehicle Enforcement, encourages motorists and truck drivers to respect each other on the road.
“Trucks need extra time and more space to change lanes or come to a complete stop,” said Bailey. “Giving trucks the room they need can prevent crashes and save lives. With increased holiday traffic, sharing the road safely is every driver’s responsibility.”
KSP urges all motorists to protect themselves and their fellow travelers by following basic safe driving tips:
Don’t drink and drive.
Kentucky has a zero tolerance policy regarding driving while impaired by alcohol.
Operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol level of .08 will result in an immediate arrest even for first time offenders. Motorists can also be arrested for lower levels if they are under 21 years of age or operating a commercial vehicle.
Buckle up. Kentucky law requires drivers to wear seat belts and assure that all occupants in their vehicle are properly restrained. No warnings will be issued to drivers found not wearing a safety belt. They will receive a citation.
Use approved child restraints. According to Kentucky law, all children 40 inches in height or less must be buckled into a child safety restraint seat that meets federal standards. Children under age seven and between 40 - 50 inches tall must be in a booster seat.
The back seat is the safest place for children to sit, especially in vehicles equipped with passenger-side air bags. Infants and toddlers should never ride in the front seat of a vehicle with a passenger-side air bag. Parents should always be sure that their child’s safety seat has been properly installed in the vehicle according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Obey speed limits. Excessive speed reduces your ability to avoid a crash, extends your vehicle’s stopping distance and increases the severity of a crash when it occurs.
Get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation and fatigue can cause lapses in attention, slowed awareness and impaired judgment.
Don’t tailgate. Use the “three-second rule” to determine if you are following a vehicle to closely. To do this, first select a fixed object on the road ahead such as a sign, tree or overpass. When the vehicle ahead of you passes the object, slowly count “one-one thousand, two-one thousand, three-one thousand.” If you reach the object before completing the count, you are following too close.
Don’t cut off semi-trucks. Large trucks require more space to slow down in order to avoid colliding with your vehicle.
Avoid aggressive driving behaviors such as passing on the shoulder of the road, changing lanes without signaling, violating traffic signals and weaving in and out of traffic.
Expect the unexpected. Watch traffic around you and be prepared to react. Scan the road ahead for potential hazards.
Watch for road debris such as tire treads, garbage, lumber, gravel, tree limbs, mufflers and exhaust parts.
Avoid or minimize in-car distractions such as cell phone use, changing CDs, eating or other activities that can remove your attention from the road.
Take frequent breaks to keep alert during long distance trips. Be extra cautious around large trucks.
They have large “blind spots” and much longer stopping distances than passenger cars.
Three out of four crashes happen within 25 miles of home at speeds of 45 miles per hour or less. About 40 percent of all fatal crashes occur on roads where the speed limit is 30 miles per hour or less.
Citizens can contribute to highway safety during the holiday period by reporting erratic, impaired or speeding drivers to the KSP toll-free hotline at 1-800-222-5555. Callers will remain anonymous and should give a description of the vehicle, location, direction of travel and license number, if possible.