Buckling up could save your gibletsThe Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) has announced its annual Thanksgiving holiday crackdown on impaired driving, beginning today and running through next Monday. The CDOT, the Colorado State Patrol and law enforcement agencies throughout the state will be looking for impaired drivers as part of CDOT’s The Heat Is On campaign, according to a press release issued yesterday.

Law enforcement officers arrested 563 drivers statewide in 2012, That year, five alcohol-related fatalities occurred on the roads, all of them males between the ages of 18 and 34, CDOT reports. Darrell Lingk, Director of the Office of Transportation Safety at CDOT, says:

Thanksgiving is a time for congregating with family and friends. We all play a role in helping loved ones make the right choice to not drive impaired; speak up and help arrange alternate transportation.

It’s also important for drivers to make sure to get enough sleep before getting behind the wheel. Bobby Kerlik, writing for TribLive, quotes sleep expert Timothy H. Monk, professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, who advised Thanksgiving travelers to get extra sleep three full nights before Thanksgiving Day:

Kerlik goes on to write:

‘It’s true that sleep deprivation can have similar effects (as drinking alcohol). Drinking and mixing the two is especially dangerous,’ Monk said. ‘Eating a large meal even without alcohol — a heavy carbohydrate meal, which is what we eat on Thanksgiving — will make you sleepy. Have someone awake and talking to you if you’re driving.’

As Kerlik notes, AAA estimates that 90% of those traveling for Thanksgiving will be in cars. The American Trucking Associations, the largest national trade association for the trucking industry, urges drivers to heed the following safety tips from a team of professional truck drivers who have millions of accident-free miles:

  • Buckle up. Seat belts reduce the risk of fatal injury by 45%.
  • Keep your attention on the road; use your cell phone only when you are stopped, and never text or Web surf while driving. “Distracted driving is a major cause of traffic accidents. Even just two seconds of distraction time doubles the chances of an accident.”
  • Make sure your vehicle is in excellent condition for long-distance travel: check wipers and wiper fluid, and have the radiator and cooling system serviced.
  • Because drivers who make unexpected lane changes to exit a highway often cause accidents, know your exit by name and number before starting your trip, and watch the signs as you near the off-ramp.
  • Do not cut in front of large trucks; they take longer to make a complete stop because they are heavy.
  • Be aware of truck blind spots; if you can’t see the truck driver in his or her mirrors, then the driver cannot see you.
  • Make sure you have an emergency kit containing a battery-powered radio, flashlight, blanket, jumper cables, fire extinguisher, first aid kit, bottled water, non-perishable food, maps, tire repair kit, and flares. (This blog would add: make sure to bring along a portable charger that can charge your cell phone without being plugged into an outlet.)
  • Be cautious in weather conditions that can be risky for driving, such as ice, snow and hail. Try to avoid driving in bad weather or at night.
  • Remove ice and snow from your vehicle so that you have maximum visibility, and so that the ice and snow don’t create a hazard for the vehicle behind you.
  • Leave enough room when traveling behind another vehicle so that you won’t hit that vehicle if it has to brake suddenly (and so that any snow or ice on the car won’t blow onto your windshield).
  • Slow down; avoid speeding.
  • Leave early to give yourself enough time in case of bad weather or heavy traffic.
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