PARKERSBURG - Thanksgiving is among the busiest holidays for travel.
AAA predicts 43.6 million American will travel at least 50 miles from home over the holiday, up .7 percent from last year.
The Parkersburg Police Department has already seen an increase in traffic and with the increase, comes more accidents, said Sgt. Greg Collins, a spokesman for the Parkersburg police.
"Aggressive driving is always an issue," he said. "If people would increase their following distance it would significantly decrease their likelihood of an accident."
Other significant causes of accidents are abrupt lane changes, speeding and failure to obey stop lights, he said. Officers advise drivers and passengers to wear seat belts and properly secure children because it is "absolutely a life-saving issue," Collins said.
Extra officers will be working roving DUI patrols and targeting impaired drivers, Collins said. Dangerous driving will not be tolerated, he said.
"Putting lives in danger and property in peril by driving like a maniac because you are suffering some sort of holiday frustration cannot be tolerated," Collins said. "We also want to be a good host to all those that come to our area to do their holiday shopping."
Anytime there is a holiday and traffic increases, officers will focus more on safety, said Sgt. Michael Baylous, spokesman for the West Virginia State Police.
"It's not a result of wanting to issue more citations," he said. "It's done in an interest of highway safety, monitoring the public so they can have a better chance of arriving safely to their destination."
Common sense and courtesy are the two biggest ways to prevent accidents, Baylous said.
"If (drivers) do both of those two things, it will greatly increase highway safety within our state," he said.
With the recent Superstorm Sandy, officers have noticed recurring trends, Baylous said.
"The storm passing through was a perfect opportunity for us to see that sometimes common sense is not used," he said. "(Drivers) can be cited for driving too fast for road conditions."
State police also have had problems with violations of the new "move over" law, Baylous said. When an emergency vehicle has pulled off to the shoulder of a roadway, drivers must move over into the farthest lane from that vehicle or slow down as they pass, he said.
Other issues are U-turns and distracted driving, Baylous said.
U-turns are dangerous because the average driver is not used to estimating the speed of an on-coming vehicle, Baylous said. Distracted driving can cause a traffic hazard when drivers in the passing lane become engaged in a conversation or aren't paying attention and drive under the posted speed limit, he said.
"It's important to use common sense, courtesy, obey traffic laws and show more kindness and consideration to others," Baylous said. "A lot of people on the roadways (this holiday season) may not be familiar with the area because they are traveling and visiting family."
"During the long Thanksgiving travel weekend, many more people than usual are on the roads visiting family and friends. We want to remind everyone the single best thing they can do to save lives and protect themselves and their passengers on our roadways is to insist on the regular and proper use of their seat belts," said Toni Tiano, with the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Highway Safety Program.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, seat belts saved more than 12,500 lives nationwide in 2010. Research shows the risk of fatal injury to front seat passenger car occupants is reduced by 45 percent, and the risk of moderate to serious injury is reduced by 50 percent when seat beats are worn correctly, Tiano said. But many still don't get the message.
Fifty one percent of the 22,187 passenger vehicle occupants who were killed in motor vehicle crashes during 2010 were not wearing seat belts at the time of their fatal crash. During the 2010 Thanksgiving holiday 337 passenger vehicle occupants were killed in motor vehicle traffic crashes nationwide, and 55 percent of those were unrestrained at the time of the crash.
Officers with the Ohio State Highway Patrol remind drivers of the dangers of driving under the influence.
According to statistics, last year during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend 17 people were killed on Ohio roadways with 27 people killed from impaired driving between Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve. About 30 percent of the deaths occurring on Thanksgiving weekend were related to drugs or alcohol.
"We all share the responsibility of contributing to a safe holiday on Ohio roadways by obeying all traffic laws and never driving impaired," said Col. John Born, Ohio State Highway Patrol superintendent. "As a member of the motoring public, you can save lives by reporting unsafe and aggressive drivers to law enforcement."