Officials urge caution during Thanksgiving, the deadliest travel holiday

Twenty people were killed on Georgia roads during last year’s Thanksgiving holiday, and more than half of them weren’t wearing seat belts.

That’s 43 percent more than the five-day holiday in 2015, when 14 people died in crashes.

Distractions are a culprit in the spike, and traffic volume plays a big role too.

“Your safety and the safety of others depends on your attention being focused totally in (driving), .... not on a text, not on social media, not on a phone call,” Georgia Department of Public Safety Commissioner Col. Mark W. McDonough said at a news conference in Macon on Tuesday.

“What’s important now is that your operate your automobile responsibly at a time where traffic is going to be incredible this weekend.”

Besides those killed on Georgia roads last year, 1,755 people were injured in 5,011 crashes.

An estimated 45.5 million people are expected to be traveling this holiday period, the most Thanksgiving travelers predicted since 2005, according to AAA. About 1.3 million of those motorists are expected on Georgia roadways.

Georgia State Patrol troopers and local law enforcement officers will be out in force, patrolling highways and roads between Wednesday and Sunday.

“We want people to enjoy this time with their families and come back safe and sound,” said Harris Blackwood, director of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety.

Drinking and driving incidents typically spike the night before Thanksgiving.

Sometimes, college students who return home for the holidays “want to go out with their hometown friends, and they want to do that at the watering hole,” Blackwood said. “Make the plan of how you’re going to get home an important part of that event.”

Nationwide, more than 800 people died in alcohol-impaired crashes during the Thanksgiving holiday period from 2012 to 2016. That makes it the deadliest holiday to be on the road, according to AAA.

AAA is offering its Tow to Go service during the Thanksgiving holiday. It’s a free, confidential transportation option available to members — and nonmembers. From Wednesday till 6 a.m. Sunday, the service gets a person and their vehicle home, within a 10-mile radius. Call 855-286-9246 for the service.

Staff writer Becky Purser contributed to this article.

Laura Corley: 478-744-4334, @Lauraecor

Holiday travel tips

▪ Allow more time to travel than normally do and don’t speed.

▪ Keep your attention on the road.

▪ Take breaks and change drivers, if possible, on long trips.

▪ Buckle up.

▪ Don’t drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

▪ Be patient.

SOURCE: The Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety