The Indiana State Police are stepping up patrols during the peak Thanksgiving travel season.
Thanksgiving is one of the busiest travel times of the year. AAA forecasts 54.6 million people will go on vacation. Of those, nearly 49 million will travel by car, a recovery to near pre-pandemic levels. This time of year is also associated with higher rates of alcohol, which combined with the sheer number of drivers on the roads, makes it a particularly dangerous time for motorists.
To prevent accidents, the Indiana State Police Lowell Post will increase enforcement as part of the Safe Family Travel campaign. Starting this week, officers will be out in greater numbers to conduct saturation patrols aimed at preventing impaired driving and encouraging seatbelt use. Safe Family Travel operations begin before Thanksgiving each year and continue 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 don’t tell people they can’t drink. We ask people to be responsible and not drink and drive,” said Lt. Terry Gose, Commander of the Lowell Post. “The holidays shouldn’t be marked by tragedy, so don’t ruin your life or someone else’s life by getting behind the wheel. You will be held accountable if you do this.”
According to NHTSA, drunk driving and fatal accidents increase during the Thanksgiving holiday season. This is partly due to cultural phenomena such as “Blackout Wednesday” or “Drinksgiving”, an event synonymous with heavy drinking. This year’s holiday also comes at a time when fatal accidents and dangerous driving are occurring across the state and nation. In Indiana, 932 people died on the road last year, a 4% increase from 2020. Of those deaths, 12 occurred during the Thanksgiving holiday season, with more than half (7) found unbelted at the time of the accident. On average, about a quarter of the state’s traffic fatalities are caused by drunk drivers. “Restricted driving is life-threatening, but even more so around the holidays,” said Robert Duckworth, ICJI’s road safety director. “With so many driving options available, there’s no reason why that should be the case. We ask everyone to plan accordingly and prioritize safety. Our goal is zero deaths this year.”
With officers on high alert, motorists are encouraged to get home safely by naming a sober driver or using public transit or a ride-hailing service like Uber or Lyft. Even if a drink is consumed, never drive impaired or let friends drive after they’ve been drinking. It’s also important to wear a seat belt, avoid distractions, and obey posted speed limits. Travelers are encouraged to research road conditions before each journey and allow enough time to reach their destination safely. “We’re 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 accidents are preventable, not inevitable. We want everyone to get 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 with a disability not only risk their lives and the lives of others, but could also face arrest, imprisonment, and significant fines and attorneys’ fees. The average drunk driving arrest 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.
For safety tips, go to www.nhtsa.gov/risky-driving/drunk-driving. To learn more about the Indiana State Police and career opportunities, visit www.indianatrooper.com.