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Office of Public Information (609) 882-2000
Capt. Al Della Fave ext. 6514
Lt. Gerald Lewis ext. 6516
Sgt. Stephen Jones ext. 6513
Sgt. Jeanne Hengemuhle ext. 6515

November 20, 2007

Don’t Let TrafficTroubles Gobble Up
Your Thanksgiving Fun

Cranbury, N.J. – Thanksgiving is traditionally the heaviest travel day of the year, a day when people want to be with family, or closest friends. Every state trooper on the road has seen the frustration of holiday travelers involved in accidents, but the heart felt suffering of the families who lost loved ones to fatal crashes often goes unseen by law enforcement. That has changed with a different kind of shift briefing to state troopers this year.

Troopers patrolling New Jersey’s toll roads this holiday season will be starting their days with first-hand accounts of the loss and suffering associated with DWI, from the families and victims of alcohol-related incidents through a new partnership with Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Beginning Wednesday, November 21st, the daily shift briefings will include personal stories from MADD representatives to emphasize the importance of the jobs that troopers do in combating drunk driving.

“Many of these Troopers have experienced the horror of DWI as part of their duties, but when the scene is cleared and the reports are written, the tragedy of the incident is truly just beginning for someone somewhere,” said Major Matthew Walker, Commander of Troop D on the New Jersey Turnpike. “These family members volunteering with MADD are the faces that our troopers never get to see – the victims that suffer the rest of their lives from a senseless loss.”

Targeted seatbelt enforcement is another very important job that troopers will perform on the state’s highways throughout the whole holiday season. According to the latest data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, (NHTSA) 31,415 passenger vehicle occupants died in crashes across the nation in 2005, and more than half of them were not wearing seat belts.

During the 2005 and 2006 Thanksgiving holidays, there were an unbelievable 16 fatal crashes each year resulting in 41 total deaths. Previous years averaged less than half that amount. About 50 percent of those deaths resulted from accidents involving alcohol.

Throughout the state, extra troopers will strictly enforce hazardous violations, including the failure of vehicle occupants to wear seatbelts. Sober driving and regular seat belt use are two of the most effective ways to protect people and reduce fatalities in motor vehicle crashes. Research has shown that when lap/shoulder belts are used properly, the risk of fatal injury to front seat passenger car occupants is reduced by 45 percent, and the risk of moderate-to-critical injury is reduced by 50 percent.

There are some common sense things all drivers can do to increase the chance of a trouble free trip this holiday:

  • Steer clear of ‘road ragers.’ Challenging an aggressive driver for a position on the asphalt is a dangerous way to get to your destination a few seconds sooner. In the end, it gains you nothing and could lose you your license or your life.
  • Prepare before you drive. Map your route; fill your tank; check your tire pressure, lights and wiper blades. These simple steps may save you more than time on the highways.
  • Use a designated driver. If alcohol figures into your Thanksgiving plans, then plan ahead to have one driver stay alcohol free to protect everyone else.
  • Insist that all vehicle occupants use seatbelts.
  • Don’t drive drowsy. The symptoms of driving tired are similar to those of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Make sure you get enough sleep.

“The past fatalities from Thanksgiving holidays show that New Jerseyans are failing to make safe driving a priority,” said Colonel Rick Fuentes, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “There are a number of decisions people make before any trip, but the first and most important is ‘Should I be driving?’”

The New Jersey Department of Transportation and New Jersey Turnpike Authority are supporting safe driving by lighting up the variable message boards with safety messages. Warnings including “Thanksgiving Drunk Driving Enforcement Crackdown,” will be broadcast over the state’s highways from Wednesday through Sunday.

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