Laura Seitz, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Highway Patrol is hoping for a repeat of last year's fatality-free holiday.
The 2011 Thanksgiving holiday weekend, spanning Wednesday to Sunday, was a good one with zero deaths on Utah's roads.
But in 2010 there were 1,046 crashes during the Thanksgiving weekend that injured 338 people and killed six, Utah Highway Patrol spokesman Dwayne Baird said.
"Our goal is for everyone to arrive at their destinations in a safe manner," Baird said. "In just the past two weeks we have seen motorists lose their lives from drowsy driving, fatigue and not wearing seat belts."
According to the 2010 Utah Crash Summary, those motorists not wearing seat belts were 31 times more likely to lose their lives in a crash than those who buckled up. Baird said UHP will have extra troopers on Utah's roads who will "pay special attention to unbuckled motorists during this high travel time."
UHP superintendent Dan Fuhr said close to half of those killed in crashes in Utah are not wearing seat belts. There are a number of things motorists can do to ensure they, and their passengers, safely arrive at their travel destinations.
"The plea from the Utah Highway Patrol is please wear your seat belt, get the proper amount of sleep, do not text and drive, drive the posted speed limit and do not drive drunk," Baird said.
The American Red Cross also released a list of tips aimed at keeping holiday travelers safe, focusing not only on those in vehicles, but those taking trains, airplanes or buses. For a motorist, part of their safety preparations should start before hitting the road.
"Make sure the vehicle is in good working order," the Red Cross advised. "Start out with a full tank of gas, check the tire air pressure and make sure the windshield fluid is full."
They reiterated the cautions given by the UHP, including the importance of avoiding distractions, rotating drivers to avoid drowsy driving, using seat belts and following posted speed limits.
"Be respectful of other motorists and follow the rules of the road," the Red Cross said in a prepared statement. "Don't follow another vehicle too closely. … Turn the headlights on as dusk approaches, or if using windshield wipers due to inclement weather."
They recommend keeping an emergency kit in the vehicle, containing snacks, water, a flashlight, blankets and extra cash.
For those taking more transportation involving multiple other travelers, such as airplanes or buses, the Red Cross issued a reminder that it is flu season and travelers need to be aware of their own potential for sickness and that of others.
"Remember that everything that someone touches has to be touched by someone else — luggage handlers, etc," the organization advised. "Wash hands often with soap and water. … Carry hand sanitizer and anti-bacterial wipes and use them to wash hands or wipe down surfaces such as armrests."
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