42.5 million Americans will be on the roadways visiting friends and family this Thanksgiving season, a four-percent increase in travelers over last years’s total.

The risk of automobile accidents increases on Thanksgiving weekend, which is one of the “busiest travelled weekends of the year,” according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Wearing a seat belt while an occupant in a motor vehicle reduces the risk of fatal injury to front-seat passengers by 45 percent and reduces the risk of moderate or severe injury to passengers by 50 percent, according to traffic statistics. The risk of fatal or moderate to severe injuries in passengers of light-trucks is reduced by 60 percent.

Tragically, over half of the people who perished in a fatal traffic crash during Thanksgiving 2016 were not wearing a seat belt at the time the crash occurred, according to the last available statistic.

“For this reason, wearing a seat belt is the single most effective thing to help prevent you from injury or death in a fatal crash,” said Len Montavon, M.A., Safe Committee coordinator for the Pike General Health District.

Vehicle passengers not wearing a seat belt when motorists are stopped by law enforcement officers will be issued a ticket, Montavon said.

“The Click It or Ticket campaign is designed to save lives by making sure all Pike County drivers and passengers get the message to wear their seat belts,” Montavon said. “The campaign emphasizes the powerful message of seat belt safety and, combined with the increased patrolling of the local highways, motorists should reach their Thanksgiving destination safely, and remember, those disobeying the law will be pulled over and ticketed.”

Montavon recommends the following tips to prepare for challenges motorists might face while traveling during the Thanksgiving weekend:

• Check your vehicle’s tires and fluid, and fuel up.

• Prepare for accidents or medical issues by stocking your vehicle with water, extra snacks, basic tools, a first aid kit, a flashlight, and blanket.

• Use a portable navigation system to navigate the roadways and find gas stations, restaurants and emergency services locations while traveling, and use traffic-enabled devices to warn of roadway congestion or to assist in finding alternate routes.

• Make sure children under 13 years of age are safely positioned in car seats and all other children are wearing seat belts, and supply snacks, water and games for the children.

• Secure animals with harnesses, a seat belt or crate to avoid distractions animals can create when transported in a motor vehicle and supply food, water, a leash and clean-up supplies in your car for the animals.

• Avoid distraction by pulling your vehicle off the road to use a cell phone, or hand the phone to another passenger.

• Be patient.

• Buckle up.

Eight out of 10 people (81 percent) of passengers ejected from vehicles as a result of vehicle crashes are killed, according to vehicle crash statistics.

”Wearing your seat belt is the most effective way to prevent ejection: only one percent of occupants wearing seat belts were ejected in fatal crashes, compared to 29 percent of those who were unrestrained,” Montavon said.

Males are more likely than females to be unrestrained in fatal crashes, according to statistics.

”Fifty-two percent of male passenger vehicle occupants who were killed in crashes in 2016 were not wearing seat belts, compared to 40 percent of females,” Montavon said. “Always use your seat belt, and make sure children are properly secured in a car seat and are seated in the rear seats if they are under 13.”

A Safe Communities Grant enables the Pike County General Health District to educate the public on the dangers of at-risk behaviors, and also addresses issues such as drinking and driving, using seat belts, texting while driving and exercising care when driving among motorcycles on roadways.

For more information about the Safe Communities Grant, contact Len Montavon at (740) 947-7721.

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