Troopers hand out advice for safe holiday travel

EVERETT — Starting Wednesday, Washington State Patrol troopers have a mission: keeping the roads safe for Thanksgiving holiday travelers.

They will be cracking down on impaired driving, speeding, aggressive driving, cellphone violations and other bad behavior on state highways, said trooper Mark Francis.

The troopers are participating in the “I-5 Challenge,” a multi-state effort to prevent fatal crashes on Thanksgiving Day and the extended weekend, he said.

“It’s one of the busiest travel days of the year so plan ahead and give yourself plenty of extra time to get to your destination,” Francis said.

People who set out late can end up being in a rush, and that creates the opportunity for impatience and road rage, he said.

Troopers also are reminding people to use good winter-driving techniques. Snow could hit the lowlands of Snohomish County by early next week, according to the National Weather Service.

Before it snows, drivers should check their tire tread and restock their vehicle emergency kits, Francis said. Drivers should make sure their tire chains are the right size, and they should brush up on chain installation. Emergency kits should have food, water and blankets.

Drivers also should monitor weather conditions before heading out on any long trips, Francis said.

Lastly, if people are going to drink at holiday parties, they should make one of three plans: assigning a designated driver, staying at the party overnight, or setting aside money for a taxi.

“If you’re trying to make decisions after you’re already consuming alcohol, your judgment will be impaired,” Francis said. “That’s when people who think they’re going to be OK are not and they’re making poor decisions.”

Last year, from the day before Thanksgiving through the holiday weekend, troopers across Washington arrested 369 drivers suspected of being drunk or on drugs. They also reported 7,344 traffic stops for speeding and 530 for seatbelt violations.

Impaired driving is the leading cause of traffic deaths in the state, data show. Drugs or alcohol play a part in half of all fatal wrecks in Snohomish County.

Rikki King: 425-339-3449, rking@heraldnet.com.

Tips for holiday travel:

Leave extra time for travel. Stay informed about weather, traffic hazards and road closures.

Before a trip, check tires and fill up on gas.

Keep a vehicle emergency kit with food, water and blankets — enough for children and pets.

Clear snow, ice and frost from windows and headlights before leaving.

Slow down and increase following distance in wet, icy, snowy or foggy weather. Don’t use cruise control in those conditions.

Yield to plows, road sanders and transit buses. Stay at least 50 feet back from sanding or deicing trucks and plows.

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