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Be safe and sober when traveling on roadways

Staff • Dec 21, 2007 at 12:00 AM

Travel during this Christmas and New Year’s holiday is expected to set a new national holiday record, according to the American Automobile Association.

AAA projects that 64.7 million Americans will travel this holiday, with 24 percent expected to travel in the Southeast including an estimated 1 million motorists who will travel through Tennessee.

“The Christmas and New Year’s holiday is one of the busiest travel times on Tennessee roadways,” Tennessee Department of Transportation Commissioner Gerald Nicely said.

TDOT will halt all interstate and major road construction work that requires lane closures during the holiday travel period. Nicely has instructed all of the department’s crews and contractors to stop all construction-related lane closures by Saturday. Construction will resume early Jan. 2.

“We want to make sure travelers have a safe holiday season without construction activities delaying their trips.”

The Tennessee Department of Safety will be working to get impaired drivers off the road this holiday season.

Tennessee Highway Patrol troopers will be out in force looking for impaired drivers and those breaking the law. As part of a special holiday enforcement plan — “Drunk Driving. Over the Limit. Under Arrest” — troopers, including administrative personnel, will conduct saturation patrols and more than a hundred sobriety and driver’s license checkpoints across the state now through the first weekend of 2008.

“The focus of this effort is saving lives,” Gov. Phil Bredesen said. “I urge all Tennesseans and travelers passing through our state to obey the laws designed to keep them safe, not only through the holidays but whenever they get behind the wheel.”

Nine people were killed on Tennessee roadways during the 2006 Christmas holiday. Alcohol was a factor in a third of those crashes.

“Drunk driving represents a total disregard for human life,” said TDOS Commissioner Dave Mitchell. “The victims who die in impaired-driving crashes are not just numbers. They are our families, friends and neighbors, and their deaths are preventable. They are not accidents.”

Col. W. Steven Flaherty, superintendent of the Virginia State Police, said this weekend signals the start of the winter holiday season for celebrations and traveling.

“With Virginia only 20 traffic deaths away from reaching 1,000 fatalities for the year, it is imperative that every driver and passenger puts safety first this holiday season by buckling up, avoiding distractions, sharing the road, obeying speed limits, and driving drug and alcohol free, ” Flaherty said.

The state police will be among law enforcement agencies across the commonwealth and the nation participating in various safe holiday driving campaigns in recognition of Drunk and Drugged Driving (3-D) Prevention Month.

During the remaining days of December through the first of January, Virginia State Police will be conducting more than 55 Checkpoint Strikeforce sobriety checkpoints and roving enforcement patrols on designated roadways statewide.

State police are just one of several state and local law enforcement agencies participating in the five-month campaign to raise public awareness throughout the Mid-Atlantic region about the dangers of drunk driving.

The weekend before Christmas through Sunday has been designated by the International Association of Chiefs of Police and Operation CARE as National Holiday Lifesaver Weekend. Virginia State Police and local law enforcement will be maximizing their enforcement efforts on “problem” roads during the time period that is traditionally the most popular for holiday festivities and alcohol consumption.

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