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AAA, law enforcement agencies offer safety tips for holiday travel

By Staff | Nov 20, 2012

With an estimated 90 percent of travelers planning to drive to their Thanksgiving holiday destination, authorities are offering up some tips to make the trip safer.

Automobile travel remains the dominant mode of transportation during Thanksgiving, according to Joanna Newton of AAA’s The Auto Club Group. Approximately 39.1 million people plan to get behind the wheel this year.

“Remember Wednesday and Sunday are the busiest travel days,” she said.

Drivers are reminded to use safety precautions and recognize Florida’s “Move Over” law. Safety precautions include the basics like checking the vehicle’s tire pressure and changing the oil before heading out the door.

“Make sure your vehicle is going to make the distance,” Newton said.

Lt. Donnie Fewell of the Lee County Sheriff’s Office traffic unit agreed.

“Make sure your car is in good shape,” he said.

Other suggestions included checking brake fluid and tire wear.

The “Move Over” law requires motorists to slow down and move over one lane for emergency response vehicles that have their lights or siren on.

“Don’t text and play with the radio,” Newton said. “When you’re driving, make sure your eyes are on the road.”

Fewell noted the higher volume of traffic during the holidays and those expected to be out on the roads Friday for the Black Friday sales.

“The first thing you need to do is be very patient,” he said. “You might want to leave earlier – plan enough time to get where they’re going.”

Drivers who rely on a GPS system to get to their destination should map out their route beforehand so they have some idea of where they are going.

“Try to plan for your trip before you make the trip, not during it,” Fewell said. “They need to be aware of their route.”

For longer trips, get a proper night’s rest before hopping in the car and stay alert by taking breaks and pulling off the road to stretch and recharge.

“Eat and drink something so they don’t get fatigued,” he said.

When visiting an unfamiliar area for Thanksgiving, keep an eye out for all traffic control devices and signage, like speed limit and stop signs.

“Be aware of their surroundings,” Fewell said.

Newton noted that motorists should have an action plan if they become stranded due to an accident or vehicle breakdown. They should get to the right side of the road, turn on their hazard lights and exit their vehicle.

They should try to stand on a sidewalk or behind a guardrail.

“If you break down, pull over and make sure you are out of the way of oncoming traffic,” she said.

Motorists should contact law enforcement immediately if they feel unsafe or if they are concerned that other drivers may not see them or their vehicle.

“Have a plan,” Newton said. “Don’t want until something happens.”

The LCSO, as well as the Cape Coral Police Department and the Fort Myers Police Department, is participating in the Click It or Ticket campaign through Nov. 26. Motorists and their passengers are reminded to wear a seat belt.

“It’s a safety thing, so it saves lives,” Fewell said.

CCPD spokesman Lt. Tony Sizemore said the department did not have any special traffic enforcements planned for the holiday as of Tuesday. However, motorists are reminded to have a designated driver or a plan if they drink.

“It’s a holiday where people get together, and oftentimes there’s doing to be alcohol involved,” he said. “Have a plan before you arrive.”

“They need to drink responsibly,” Fewell added.

AAA and Bud Light will be offering the Tow to Go program Thursday – Thanksgiving Day – through Sunday. For AAA members and non-members, the program provides intoxicated drivers with a free ride and tow home.

“Have a plan before you have your first drink,” Newton said. “Always have a designated driver, that should always be your plan A.”

Plan B includes having cab or taxi telephone numbers programmed into a phone and some extra money on hand to pay for the ride home.

If those fail, Tow to Go helps keep intoxicated drivers from getting behind that wheel.

“Tow to Go is there to protect you and everyone else on the roadway,” she said.

Created in 1998, the program is in its 14th year. Tow to Go has kept approximately 20,000 intoxicated drivers off roadways over the years.