|TRENTON – As thousands of people are preparing to make their way across New Jersey for the Thanksgiving feast this week, Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino and the Division of Highway Traffic Safety are urging motorists and pedestrians alike to be extra careful during one of the busiest, and most dangerous, holidays for travelers.
“Heading home for Thanksgiving is as much a tradition as turkey and pumpkin pie,” said Attorney General Porrino. “We want everyone to stay safe while traveling to and from holiday gatherings with friends and family.”
As one of the busiest travel holidays, Thanksgiving is also one of the deadliest. Motorists navigating unfamiliar roads, often late, are more likely to crash, especially if they’ve been drinking alcohol. For college students, home on break, the night before Thanksgiving is particularly dangerous as they flock to parties and bars to reunite with old friends.
Last year, motor vehicle crashes killed15 people in New Jersey during the five-day Thanksgiving holiday period, up from 10 the year before, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Six of the drivers in those crashes were under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Pedestrians, too, face increased risk of injury after they’ve had a few drinks. Of the three pedestrian killed by car crashes over the Thanksgiving holiday last year, two of them were under the influence by alcohol or drugs.
“Most people understand the perils of drinking and driving, but we want them to realize that walking home after too many drinks can be just as dangerous,” said Gary Poedubicky, Acting Director of the Division of Highway Traffic Safety. “Whether you’re behind the wheel or on foot, when alcohol impairs your cognitive and physical skills, you’re much more likely to make a mistake or engage in risky behavior that could be fatal. We’re urging people to stay sober and stay alert, and pay attention to the road.”
Distracted driving has become a dangerous epidemic on New Jersey roadways, as more and more drivers are using cell phones and other hand-held devices behind the wheel.
Driver inattention has been the number one cause of fatal crashes in the state for past six years, five straight years, hitting an all-time high in 2014, according to the latest available statistics from the New Jersey State Police. That year, of the 582 drivers involved in fatal crashes, distraction was a factor in 190 of them.
“When you're behind the wheel, especially in heavy holiday traffic, your attention must be on the road at all times,” Poedubicky said. “Texting, talking on the phone, or engaging in any other activity – even for a split second – can result in tragedy.”
The Divisions of Highway Traffic Safety and State Police offered the following tips to ensure a safe Thanksgiving holiday for motorists:
Always buckle up, every ride, regardless of your seating position in the vehicle. It’s your best defense against an impaired driver.
Never consume alcohol and drive, and if you’re going to drink, arrange for a designated driver to take you home.
Stay focused on the road. When you're behind the wheel, all other tasks – using your cell phone, eating or drinking, even tending to a crying child - must take a backseat. If there's something that needs your attention immediately, pull over before you address it.
- If you feel drowsy while driving, pull over and find a safe place to address your condition.
Avoid walking home when you’re intoxicated. Alcohol impairment leads to risky behaviors like crossing against signals, or walking too close to oncoming traffic. If you’ve had too much to drink, have someone escort you home, or call a cab.
Stay alert. Don’t talk or text on your cell phone while navigating through the streets. Pedestrian inattention is a common cause of pedestrian-motor vehicle conflicts.
Wear bright-colored, reflectorized clothing, especially at night.
Walk on sidewalks or paths and always cross at the corner, within marked crosswalks if provided. If there are no sidewalks, walk facing traffic and make eye contact with motorists.
- Never cross mid-block (unless within a marked crosswalk), between parked cars or by climbing over median barriers. This is not only unsafe, but against the law.
Follow the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office online at Twitter, Facebook, Instagram & YouTube. The social media links provided are for reference only. The New Jersey Attorney General’s Office does not endorse any non-governmental websites, companies or applications.