This Thanksgiving don’t be a statistic as police crack down on DUIs, seatbelts

20 November 2023- As thousands upon thousands of travelers are hitting the skyways and roadways this Thanksgiving, Pennsylvania State Police, local police departments, and a number of special interest groups are saying that they’re going to keep an extra close eye out for impaired and inadequately safe drivers.

“Give your family and friends the gift of peace of mind by planning ahead to get a sober ride home from your holiday celebrations,” said Maggie Nunley, a Regional Program Administrator with the Pennsylvania DUI Association. “Don’t risk your life or someone else’s by getting behind the wheel impaired.”

PennDOT and local officials in Mercer County hosted a joint event that was planned in connection with the current “Click It or Ticket” mobilization that began on November 13, 2023, and runs through November 26, 2023, in addition to the the upcoming holiday season impaired driving campaign from November 22, 2023, to January 1, 2024.

During this period, state and local law enforcement officials will be participating in high-visibility enforcement efforts such as roving patrols and sobriety checkpoints to reduce the number of crashes and fatalities involving impaired drivers and to promote seat belt safety.

Between November 23, 2022, and January 2, 2023, there were 14,342 crashes across Pennsylvania, resulting in 7,268 injuries and 124 fatalities, according to preliminary PennDOT data. There were 592 crashes, 259 injuries, and eight fatalities during that same span in PennDOT’s District 1, which covers Crawford, Erie, Forest, Mercer, Venango, and Warren counties.

“Every life is important. Buckle up for those you care about,” Libonati said. “Wearing your seat belt is the simplest and most effective thing you can do to protect yourself in the event of a crash.”

Properly wearing a seat belt can reduce your risk of fatal injury by 45% in the front seat of a passenger car and by 60% in a light truck, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Last year, the NHTSA said 91.6% of motorists wore their seatbelt, which was a slight uptick from 90.4% in 2021. However, this still leaves more than 8% of drivers not fully protected if they were involved in a crash.

Air bags alone are not enough to protect drivers, as the force of an air bag can seriously injure or kill someone if they are not wearing their seat belt.

To properly buckle up, PennDOT offers the following tips:

  • The lap belt and shoulder belt should be secured across the pelvis and rib cage to better withstand crash forces.
  • The shoulder belt should be across the middle of the chest and away from the neck.
  • The lap belt should rest across the hips, not the stomach.
  • Never put the shoulder belt behind your back or under an arm.

In addition to ensuring everyone is wearing a seat belt during holiday travels, PennDOT also reminds motorists that alcohol is not the only substance that can impair someone’s ability to operate a motor vehicle.

Alcohol, marijuana, and other drugs can slow a driver’s coordination, judgment, and reaction times, while cocaine and methamphetamine can make drivers more aggressive and reckless. Some prescription and over-the-counter medicines can cause extreme drowsiness, dizziness, and other side effects. Motorists should read and follow all warning labels and note any that warn against “operating heavy machinery,” which includes driving a vehicle.