City and county police have worked six fatal crashes in Howard County and are hoping not to add to that number this holiday season.

With Thanksgiving being one of the busiest times on Indiana roadways, police will be out in extra force as part of Operation Pullover, a federally funded traffic enforcement program aimed at reducing traffic deaths.

The campaign, funded by federal dollars, begins today and runs through Nov. 27.

Additional officers from area departments departments will be promoting seat belt use and enforcing traffic laws, especially drinking and driving.

“If you buckle up and drive responsibly, you are much more likely to arrive alive,” said Lt. Jerry Asher of the Howard County Sheriff Department.

Indiana’s traffic fatality rate increased by 13.7 percent from 2003 to 2004, but Howard County traffic deaths declined from 12 in 2003 to six so far this year.

But the concern is that more half of those killed were not properly restrained in their vehicle, Kokomo Police Chief Russell Ricks said.

The chief warns motorist driving through Kokomo to be smart and drive safe.

“People who drink and drive, putting others at risk, will be detected and will be spending their holidays in jail,” Ricks said, adding statistics show the added enforcement is working.

“Our statistics show that traffic accidents are down 7 percent along the U.S. 31 corridor,” he said.

Nationally, traffic fatalities declined from 2003 to 2004 as a result of increased enforcement, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The NHTSA said research shows the high visibility enforcement, coupled with traffic safety messages have led to increased seat-belt usage and a reduction in fatalities.

Mike Fletcher may be reached at (765) 454-8565 or via e-mail at mike.fletcher@kokomotribune.com

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