By Ed Vasicek
Tribune managing editor
Lots of Hoosiers will head out of town to visit family and friends this coming holiday weekend. The AAA auto club forecasts 39.1 million people traveling by car next weekend – a 0.6 percent increase from last year.
AAA officials suggest the slight increase points to the ability of American families “to economize their budgets so they can gather around the holiday table to carve the turkey.” This will be the fourth straight year of growth since 2008, when Thanksgiving travel dropped 25 percent in the midst of the country’s economic downtown.
In an effort to make sure holiday travelers reach their destinations safely, police will be out in force on Indiana roadways this coming weekend.
The Kokomo Police Department and the Howard County Sheriff Department will be working with the Indiana State Police and other law enforcement agencies across the state in carrying out the Safe Family Travel enforcement blitz.
During the blitz, law enforcement officers will work thousands of overtime hours, day and night, to ensure motorists are traveling safely. They’ll be particularly on the lookout for drunken drivers and seat-belt violations.
The goal is not to ruin someone’s holiday with a traffic ticket. It’s to avoid having to make that dreaded call to another family about a tragedy on the roadways.
During the 2011 Thanksgiving holiday, 17 people lost their lives in Indiana traffic crashes. There were 476 alcohol-related collisions, resulting in five deaths. But there also were 415 crashes in which drivers and passengers weren’t buckled up. Those resulted in 12 fatalities.
By all means, get out and visit friends and family this coming weekend, but if your celebration involves alcohol, don’t get behind the wheel of a vehicle.
And whether you’re riding or driving, be sure to buckle up. Studies have consistently shown that wearing a seat belt increases the chances of surviving a crash by more than 50 percent.
Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving.