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GUEST COLUMN: Thanksgiving can be deadly

Thanksgiving is historically one of the year’s deadliest holidays on Minnesota roads, mandating special attention by officers. Special saturations and high visibility enforcement will focus on and around Thanksgiving eve, an active time for impaired driving and related incidents. In Minnesota during the Thanksgiving travel period (Wednesday – Sunday), 2008–2010, 16 motorists were killed and 1,834 motorists were arrested for DWI. Of the 16 deaths, six were alcohol-related and seven were unbelted occupants.

In addition to impaired driving, the enforcement effort will include focus on the state’s seat belt law — drivers and all passengers in any seat must be belted or in the correct child restraint to avoid being stopped and ticketed. Each year, around 75 percent of drinking drivers killed also are not belted.

“Sadly, some families will have an empty seat at their holiday table,” State Patrol Lt. Joe Dwyer said. “Enforcing seat belt laws and arresting impaired drivers are preventive measures we take to ensure safety on Minnesota roads.”

Troopers, deputies and officers statewide are reminding motorists to travel safely during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend and ask motorists to follow this traffic safety recipe to ensure safe Thanksgiving travel:

Buckle up.

Plan for enough travel time to avoid the urge to speed — the posted speed is the limit.

Pay attention. Thanksgiving is one of the busiest travel periods.

If you plan on drinking, plan for a safe and sober ride home.

The DWI enforcement and education effort is funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and is a component of the state’s Toward Zero Deaths traffic safety program. A primary vision of the TZD program is to create a safe driving culture in Minnesota in which motorists support a goal of zero road fatalities by practicing and promoting safe and smart driving behavior. TZD focuses on the application of four strategic areas to reduce crashes — education, enforcement, engineering and emergency trauma response.

SGT. CURT S. MOWERS is regional public information officer for the Minnesota State Patrol.