HARRISBURG – With the busy holiday driving period just around the corner, the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP), Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) and Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission came together at the PennDOT Regional Traffic Management Center at the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) in Harrisburg to remind drivers to wear their seatbelts, drive sober and eliminate distractions behind the wheel as they prepare to take to the road for Thanksgiving.
Regional Traffic Management Centers throughout the commonwealth serve as hubs where PennDOT traffic control specialists monitor a network of 1,000 traffic cameras to help keep roads open and traffic flowing.
“We can all do our part to avoid crashes by always wearing a seatbelt, designating a sober driver and never driving distracted,” said PennDOT Secretary Leslie S. Richards.
“We want everyone to arrive at their holiday destinations safely, but when crashes do happen, PennDOT and first responders will work quickly to help the motorists involved and keep traffic moving.”
Operation Safe Holiday kicks off on Nov. 25 with the “Click It or Ticket” Thanksgiving enforcement mobilization running through Dec. 8.
During the effort, PSP will offer no-cost child passenger safety seat fitting clinics at several locations statewide, with the goal of keeping Pennsylvania’s youngest travelers safe on the road.
“Troopers would rather assist a parent with a child safety seat installation at one of our clinics than issue a citation for not using one; or worse, respond to a crash involving an injured child who was in an improperly installed car seat,” said Lieutenant Colonel Scott Price, deputy commissioner of the Pennsylvania State Police.
“Whether you have a new baby, recently purchased a new child passenger safety seat, or simply want advice from a trained child passenger safety technician, I encourage all parents and caregivers to take advantage of this no-cost resource.”
In Pennsylvania, children under age 4 must be properly restrained in an approved child safety seat. Children under 2 must be secured in a rear-facing car seat until the child outgrows the maximum weight and height limits designated by the manufacturer. Booster seats are required for children ages 4 to 8 to keep them protected in the event of a crash.
Throughout Operation Safe Holiday, law enforcement will also conduct sobriety checkpoints, roving patrols and regular traffic safety patrols beginning on Thanksgiving Eve, Nov. 27, through the New Year’s holiday to crack down on drivers impaired by drugs or alcohol.
According to PennDOT data, during the 2018 Thanksgiving holiday travel period, including the weekend before and after the holiday as well as the day itself, there were 2,546 crashes resulting in 18 fatalities statewide.
The Pennsylvania Turnpike expects Thanksgiving to be the busiest travel holiday of year with 3.6 million motorists traveling during the six-day period.
“With traffic volumes at their heaviest and travelers happily thinking about holiday visiting, it’s critical to focus on safety and keep it top of mind,” said Pennsylvania Turnpike Chief Operating Officer Craig Shuey.
“In addition to significantly higher traffic volumes, drivers may be more distracted. Also, the deer population is on the move this time of year, so vigilance is very important. Go carefully, plan ahead so you can take your time and stop at regular intervals for a break.”
Drivers can check conditions on major roadways by visiting www.511PA.com. 511PA, which is free and available 24 hours a day, provides traffic delay warnings, weather forecasts, traffic speed information and access to more than 950 traffic cameras.
511PA is also available through a smartphone application for iPhone and Android devices, by calling 5-1-1, or by following regional Twitter alerts accessible on the 511PA Web site.
The holiday seat belt and DUI enforcement are funded through PennDOT’s statewide annual distribution from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
For more information on PennDOT’s highway safety efforts visit, www.PennDOT.gov/safety.
The public can join the discussion on social media using the hashtag #PASafeHoliday.