Officials urge motorists to buckle up during Thanksgiving

Staff Writer
Gonzales Weekly Citizen

BATON ROUGE – The Louisiana Highway Safety Commission is urgThanksgiving 2009 ranked second for most deaths in crashes during a holidaying motorists to be extra cautious while driving during the Thanksgiving holiday. Thanksgiving is one of the most heavily traveled holidays of the year and it is also one of the most dangerous times for highway crashes and fatalities.

 In 2009, 19 people were killed and 658 were injured in crashes in Louisiana during the Thanksgiving holiday. The 2009 Thanksgiving holiday ranked second behind Mardi Gras for the most crashes during a holiday. From 2005 to 2009, an average of 16 people each year were killed in crashes over the Thanksgiving holiday.

 Part of the reason for the high crash rates during the Thanksgiving holiday is the volume of travel. Driving a personal vehicle is by far the most common method that travelers use to visit friends and family during Thanksgiving. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the average Thanksgiving long-distance trip is 214 miles.

 “Crash rates are almost sure to increase when large numbers of people get in their cars and travel long distances over a relatively brief period as is done over the Thanksgiving holiday,” said Lt. Col. John LeBlanc, executive director of the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission. “Regardless of how careful of a driver you are, roads congested with vehicles full of people headed for holiday celebrations present special safety challenges.”

 LeBlanc said ensuring that everyone in a vehicle wears a seat belt and driving sober are among the best steps families can take to remain safe during their Thanksgiving travel. Louisiana State Police and local enforcement agencies will be out in large numbers over the holiday period enforcing all traffic laws. Officers will be on the lookout to ensure that all vehicle occupants—including those in the rear seat—are buckled up, as required by Louisiana law.

 According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, regular seat belt use is the single most effective way to protect individuals and reduce fatalities in motor vehicle crashes. Research has shown that when seat belts are used properly the risk of fatal injury to front-seat passengers in automobiles is reduced by 45 percent, and the risk of moderate to serious injury is reduced by 50 percent.

 The Louisiana Highway Safety Commission has provided grants to many law enforcement agencies across the state for increased enforcement during Thanksgiving and other holidays.