Make it to the table this Thanksgiving

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia Governor’s Highway Safety Program (GHSP) is partnering with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to make sure you make it to the table this Thanksgiving.

Because the Thanksgiving holiday is one of the busiest for America, more drivers will be on the roads than usual, increasing the likelihood of a motor vehicle crash. During this kickoff to the holiday season, it’s more important than ever to stress the importance of seat belt safety with this essential reminder: Buckle Up. Every Trip. Every Time.

With more families and friends gathering this year after many such events were canceled last year, the GHSP also reminds everyone: Buzzed Driving Is Drunk Driving.

During the Thanksgiving holiday weekend in 2019 (6 p.m. on Wednesday, November 27, to 5:59 a.m. on Monday, December 2), there were 279 passenger vehicle occupants killed in traffic crashes across the nation. More than half (54%) were unrestrained. Nighttime proved even more deadly, with 52% of Thanksgiving weekend crashes occurring at night. These deaths represent needless tragedies for families across America and may have been prevented with the simple click of a seat belt.

“As group gathering restrictions have eased, we are expecting more traffic on West Virginia roads during the upcoming holiday. Whether you’re driving 10 minutes to the Thanksgiving dinner table, or 10 hours, it’s critical that drivers and passengers use their seat belts, and that includes children being in the correct car seats. No one expects to be in a crash, but if you are, wearing your seat belt is the one thing you can do to help prevent death and injuries,” said Bob Tipton, GHSP Director.

“Additionally, impaired driving is a real threat to our communities. Both alcohol- and drug-impaired drivers are a dangerous problem that increases during holidays like Thanksgiving. Driving under the influence is deadly and illegal, and no one should ever take that risk,” Tipton continued.

Drunk-driving-related crashes spike during the Thanksgiving holiday season. According to NHTSA, from 2015 to 2019, 135 drivers involved in fatal crashes on Thanksgiving Eve (6 p.m. to 5:59 a.m.) were alcohol-impaired, and over the entire holiday period (6 p.m. the Wednesday before Thanksgiving through 5:59 a.m. the Monday after Thanksgiving), nearly 800 people died in alcohol-impaired crashes. In fact, during the 2019 Thanksgiving holiday period, more than four times as many drivers involved in fatal crashes were alcohol-impaired during nighttime hours than during the day.

Remember: in West Virginia, it is illegal to drive with a BAC of .08 or higher. If you are under the influence of any impairing substance, hand the keys to a sober friend instead of driving yourself home.

If you’re planning to head out to the bar or to parties during the Thanksgiving holiday, make sure you plan for a sober ride home. Here are a few tips to help you prepare for a safe night out.

• Remember that it is never okay to drink and drive. Even if you’ve had only one alcoholic beverage, designate a sober driver or plan to use public transportation or a ride service to get home safely.
• If available, use your community’s sober ride program.
• If you see a drunk driver on the road, contact local law enforcement.
• Do you have a friend who is about to drink and drive? Take the keys away and make arrangements to get your friend home safely.

For more information about traveling safely this Thanksgiving, please visit www.nhtsa.gov/risky-driving/seat-belts. To read more about impaired driving issues, visit https://www.nhtsa.gov/risky-driving/drunk-driving.

For more information about the West Virginia Governor’s Highway Safety Program, visit www.dmv.wv.gov/ghsp or call 304-926-2509.

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