EDITORIAL: Don’t become a statistic this holiday weekend


It’s a sad and frightening thought that someone has this job – determining for the National Safety Council how many people are expected to die on the roads over the Thanksgiving holiday.

It’s even more sad and more frightening that these crashes will tragically touch so many lives, and that many of the deaths are preventable with a modest amount of caution, self-control and forethought.

The council estimates that 518 people may die over the 4-1/2 day holiday that traditionally begins at 6 p.m. today and ends just before midnight on Sunday night. That number could be as low as 452 and as high as 588.

If the statisticians are in the ballpark, the death toll would represent the most highway deaths since 2007 – 15 years.

If you don’t die in a crash, there’s a chance you’ll be injured enough to require medical attention. The Safety Council estimates that 59,100 people will be injured in car crashes over the long weekend, with a range of between 51,500 and 67,100.

The sources of the problem are well-known.

More people drive to visit family and friends over the long weekend. They drink more alcohol. They drive while drowsy thanks to heavy Thanksgiving meals. They stay late and drive longer distances than normal.

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The Wednesday before Thanksgiving is also traditionally the time when college kids return home and go out to bars to reconnect with old friends and have a good time. Then they try to drive home, putting themselves and others on the road at risk. Of all the deaths expected this holiday season, about 36% will involve a driver impaired by alcohol.

There are ways to prevent the deaths and injuries. The most obvious one is not to drink, even a small amount, and get behind the wheel.

Have a designated driver, in the family or among your friends, or call a cab or ride-share.

Covid and high gas prices have driven many Uber and Lyft drivers out of the business, so rides could be more difficult to secure, especially late at night; the waits may be longer; and the cost of a ride might be higher. Prepare in advance to ensure you have a ride home.

Even if you’re not drinking, driving while you’re tired is a major contributor to accidents.

It not only can cause you to fall asleep at the wheel, but also slow your reaction time to activity on the road.

Avoid driving while you’re sleepy, especially times when you’re normally asleep. Drink a lot of caffeinated beverages, drive with a parter so you can take turns, take regular breaks to walk around in the fresh air, and plan to end the driving for the night early.

Another simple way to avoid injury or death is to wear your seatbelt. As many as 205 lives may be saved by seat belts over the weekend.

Don’t become a number for the National Safety Council’s statistician.

Take basic precautions to have a safe and healthy Thanksgiving holiday.

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Categories: Editorial, Opinion, Opinion

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