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Don#8217;t be stupid

Many Suffolkians will be taking to the roads today to celebrate Thanksgiving with loved ones. Drivers are encouraged to drive defensively and carefully.

Last year, according to the Virginia State Police, 19 people died on Virginia roadways over the five-day Thanksgiving holiday reporting period, the highest number in the past five years.

There are several precautions you can take to make sure this Thanksgiving is a happy one.

According to a press release from Autobytel, “icy roads, stressed shoppers, packed highways, frolicking kids, soused party-goers n all conspire to make the holiday season the most dangerous time of the year for drivers and pedestrians. Given that speeding is a factor in roughly 30 percent of all traffic fatalities, there are plenty of reasons to slow down this holiday season. As the season kicks’ off, here are some really good ones to keep in mind: 

Because death definitely doesn’t take a holiday

Over the past decade roughly 13,500 traffic fatalities occurred on the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day holiday periods; and nearly 5,000 (or about 37 percent) of those deaths were speeding-related. An upward trend in speeding-related deaths actually starts after October, culminating on New Year’s Day - the deadliest day for speeding-related fatalities of any date on the calendar.

Because it’s a busy time on the highways

It’s estimated that more than 35 million people will drive 50 miles or more from home this Thanksgiving weekend, and that another 50 million-plus will drive 50+ miles during the Christmas season to visit friends and family. By speeding, you’ll only be adding to the congestion, chaos and stress on the roads n while risking your own and others’ chances of making it to your holiday destinations safely.

Because too many drivers have had too much holiday cheer

Between Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day in 2003 there were 4,147 traffic fatalities on American roads–and a full 38 percent of them were alcohol-related. On New Year’s Eve, there were 219 traffic deaths and over 61 percent were alcohol-related, and on Super Bowl Sunday there were 113 traffic deaths and 54.9 percent were alcohol-related. The bottom line: Drunk drivers are out in force – and wreaking havoc – during the holidays, impaired by poor judgment and slow reaction times. If you’re speeding, you’re just adding another shot of danger to what’s already a deadly cocktail of driving hazards.

Because you don’t want a special holiday gift from a traffic cop

As the year comes to close, police departments generally step up highway patrols to nab drunk drivers. While they’re at it, rest assured they’ll also be flashing their radar guns. The average cost of a speeding ticket, including court fees, runs about $150. And in some states driving five-10 miles over the speed limit results in a ticket costing nearly $200 – while driving 15-20 miles over the limit will cost upwards of $275. The average insurance increase over three years from a speeding ticket, meanwhile, runs roughly $300 — meaning that a single speeding ticket can end up setting you back $450 – $575. So before you speed, consider whether you can afford it … on top of all the other costs associated with the holidays.

Once again the Virginia State Police will be participating in the Combined Accident Reduction Effort (CARE) program to promote and enforce transportation safety during the holiday.

Operation CARE is a state-sponsored, national program designed to decrease crashes, fatalities and injuries caused by speeding, impaired driving and the failure to use occupant restraints. The traffic safety program is conducted during national holidays.

The 120-hour statistical counting period for the 2005 Thanksgiving holiday begins Wednesday, Nov. 23, and ends at midnight on Sunday, Nov. 27. All available Virginia State Police troopers will be on patrol through the extended holiday weekend.

“Incorporating safety into your travel plans n from making sure everyone is buckled up to selecting a designated driver n is imperative with the high volume of traffic forecasted for this Thanksgiving holiday,” Colonel W. Steven Flaherty, Superintendent of the Virginia State Police, advised. “We encourage all motorists to join the Virginia State Police in making the Commonwealth’s highways as safe as ever, especially as we head into the winter holiday season.”

The Virginia State Police through the 2004 Operation CARE program yielded the following summonses and/or arrests: 7,968 for speeding; 3,015 for reckless driving; 144 for driving under the influence; 734 for not wearing safety belts; 192 for not using child restraints; and 3,298 for other hazardous violations.

If you drive drunk or fast, there’s a good chance you could be involved in an accident or issued a speeding ticket. Don’t be stupid.