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Officials stress safe travel during long holiday weekend

By Staff | Nov 26, 2013

Experts project that an estimated 2.23 million people in Florida will travel for Thanksgiving.

Over the holiday weekend, approximately 2.02 million people are expected to travel by automobile, with 153,394 travelers expected to take to the air. A projected 53,236 will travel by other means.

The holiday travel period is defined as the Wednesday before Thanksgiving to Monday.

“AAA projects a slight decrease in the number of Thanksgiving travelers this year as a result of weakened consumer sentiment tied to economic uncertainty and the government shutdown,” Jessica Brady, a spokeswoman for AAA’s The Auto Club Group, said via a released prepared statement.

In Florida, the projected 2.23 million travelers is a 0.4 percent decrease from last year.

Nationwide, an estimated 43.4 people will journey 50 miles or more from home during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend – a 1.5 percent decrease from the 44 million travelers in 2012.

The average distance people are expected to travel this year is 601 miles.

“On a positive note, travel volumes are expected to remain well above the 2008 and 2009 levels when the recession caused a 25 percent drop in travel numbers,” she said.

Last year’s travel numbers were a four-year peak since the recession-driven declines.

Officials noted that this year’s projected travel numbers could change.

“Last year there was a larger increase in overall travel than initially forecast for the Thanksgiving holiday,” Brady said. “We could see more travelers this year than expected as a result of last-minute travel plans.”

Authorities are stepping up their traffic enforcement efforts for the Thanksgiving holiday.

“It is the goal of the Cape Coral Police Department’s Traffic Unit that all of the travelers in the city arrive to their destinations safety and without incident,” CCPD Sgt. Jon Kulko said.

“The safety of our citizens on our roadways is paramount to my traffic officers, and they will actively seek out those who make the roadways hazardous for those travelers,” he said.

Today, Cape officers are conducting a special operation until 8 p.m., targeting red light runners and aggressive drivers. They are also reinforcing the Click It or Ticket campaign currently underway.

Click It or Ticket began Nov. 18 and runs through Sunday. During the campaign, the CCPD will conduct targeted traffic enforcement operations throughout the city during the day and night.

“Our busiest time of the year is here with our part-time residents coming back to Cape Coral for the great weather and holidays,” Sgt. Dana Coston said in a recent prepared statement. “We want to encourage all of our residents to slow down, obey the traffic laws and, of course, wear their seat belts.”

The Cape agency offered the following safety tips for motorists:

– Leave a little bit earlier, so you do not have to rush to your destination.

– Do not text and drive – distracted driving kills.

– Be courteous to other drivers on the roadway.

– Buckle up – seat belts save lives and reduce injuries during traffic crashes.

“The CCPD’s Traffic Unit will be out to ensure that your holiday season is safe for you and your family as your travel to and from your holiday destinations. Please buckle up, leave early and do not text and drive,” Kulko said.

The Lee County Sheriff’s Office has joined the Cape police and other law enforcement agencies throughout state and country in the Click It or Ticket campaign, according to officials.

“Your safety is so very crucial,” Sheriff Mike Scott said via a released prepared statement. “I can’t stress enough the importance of fastening your seat belt and making sure everyone in your vehicle is also properly secured.”

Children should be properly buckled up in a seat belt, booster seat or car seat, officials reported. Deputies will be looking for compliance with this being cause for a primary traffic stop.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the use of seat belts in passenger vehicles saved an estimated 12,174 lives in 2012. They saved nearly 63,000 lives from 2008-12.

Deaths involving the non-use of seat belts are more prevalent at night.

The LCSO offered the following tips on seat belt safety:

– Air bags are designed to work with seat belts, not replace them.

– Be sure the seat belt is properly positioned; never put the shoulder strap behind you or under your arm.

– Before you buy a new vehicle, check to see that its seat belts are a good fit for you.

– Learn how to properly use and install child safety seats or boosters.

Starting today through Sunday, the Florida Highway Patrol is participating in a nationwide effort known as Operation CARE, or Combined Accident Reduction Effort. It focuses on impaired driving, speeding, following too closely and other aggressive driving behaviors over the holiday weekend.

Troopers will also enforce safety belt and child restraint laws, according to officials.

AAA and Bud Light are again offering the Tow to Go program through Dec. 1 to the public for the holiday. It is designed to help discourage an intoxicated driver from getting behind the wheel.

The service provides a confidential ride to the driver to a safe location within a 10-mile radius. The service is free, and the AAA tow truck will take the vehicle and driver to the safe location.

To use the Tow to Go program, call (855) 2-TOW-2-GO (286-9246).