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  • Bill Raines


LAWRENCE COUNTY - NOVEMBER 24, 2022 - Thanksgiving is one of the busiest travel seasons of the year. AAA predicting more than 54.6 million people will be heading out for the holiday.

File photo

Of those, nearly 49 million will be traveling by car, a rebound to almost pre-pandemic levels This time of year is also associated with higher drinking rates, which combined with the sheer number of drivers on the road, make it an especially dangerous time for motorists.

A traffic accident at Indiana State Road 37 and Patton Hill Road Wednesday night more the 49 million will be traveling by car over Thanksgiving

To prevent crashes, the Lawrence County Traffic Safety Partnership will be ramping up enforcement as part of the Safe Family Travel campaign. Starting this week, officers will be in greater numbers conducting saturation patrols designed to discourage impaired driving and promote seat beat use.

Safe Family Travels operations begin before the Thanksgiving each year and run through New Year's Day. The extra high visibility enforcement is funded with grants provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)

through the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute (ICJI).

" We're not telling people they cannot drink. We are asking people to be responsible and do not drink and drive.," said Sheriff Mike Branham. " The holidays shouldn't be marked by tragedy, so do not ruin your life or the life of someone else by getting behind the wheel impaired. You will be held accountable if you do,"

According to NHTSA, drunk driving and fatal crashes spike during the Thanksgiving holiday season. This can be attributed, in part, to cultural phenomena like " Blackout Wednesday" or "Drinksgiving," an event synonymous with heavy alcohol consumption. This year's holiday also comes at a time when fatal crashes and dangerous driving are up the state and nation.

In Indiana, 932 lost their lives on the road last year, a 4 percent increase from 2020. Of those fatalities, 12 occurred during the Thanksgiving holiday season, with more than half (7) found unbuckled at the scene.

On average, approximately one fourth the states fatalities are caused by drunk drivers.

" Impaired driving is life threatening, but more around the holidays," said Robert Duckworth, ICH Traffic Safety Director. " With so many ride options available, there's is no reason that should be the case. We're asking everyone to plan accordingly and to make safety a priority. Our goal is zero fatalities this year.

With officers on high alert, motorists encouraged to plan ahead to get home safely by designating a sober driver by using public transportation or a ride service like Uber of Lyft. Even if one drink is consumed, never drive impaired or let friends get behind the wheel if they have been drinking.

It's so important to wear a seat belt, put away the distractions and follow posted speed limits. Travelers are encouraged to check road conditions before each trip and to leave with plenty of time to reach their destination safely.

" We are anticipating a very busy travel season this year, so for those sharing the road, remember to slow down, drive sober and buckle up," said Devon McDonald, ICJI Executive Director. " Most fatal crashes are avoidable, not inevitable. We want everyone to make to the Thanksgiving table safely,"

Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is illegal in Indiana and all 50 states. Those who choose to drive impaired are, not only risking their life and the lives of others, but also could face an arrest, jail time and substantial fines and attorney fees. The average drunk driving costs up to $10,000.

Motorists are encouraged to contact the department or call 911 if they encounter an impaired or unsafe driver on the road.

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