Law enforcement officials will ramp up DUI checkpoints, enforcement efforts during Thanksgiving week

HARRISBURG — The days around Thanksgiving are the busiest travel period of the year, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

They are also among the most dangerous for drivers on U.S. highways, PennDOT says.

According to PennDOT statistics, there were a total of 3,962 crashes during last year’s Thanksgiving season. Those accidents resulted in 38 fatalities. In addition, PennDOT says, 470 of those crashes involved impaired drivers.

In an attempt to make the roadways safer, law enforcement and traffic safety officials are using Thanksgiving to launch a six-week campaign called “Operation Safe Holiday.”

Introduced in 2004 as a one-day safety and sobriety checkpoint effort on Thanksgiving Eve, the campaign has evolved into a comprehensive mobilization that targets impaired driving, aggressive driving and seat belt violations.

As part of “Operation Safe Holiday,” PennDOT says, Pennsylvania is conducting a statewide fall “Click It or Ticket” seat belt enforcement mobilization, which begins November 20 and continues through December 3.  Motorists are encouraged to buckle up year round, but particularly during this period when the risk of impaired driving crashes escalates.  Vehicle restraint systems can be the best defense, increasing chances of surviving a crash involving an impaired driver.

As for DUI enforcement, sobriety checkpoints and roving DUI patrols have been scheduled for Adams, Lancaster and York Counties as part of the Center for Traffic Safety’s Sobriety Checkpoint and Expanded DUI/Underage Drinking Enforcement Program.  The Pennsylvania State Police will also be conducting the same enhanced enforcement activity locally and throughout the Commonwealth.

The sobriety checkpoints and roving DUI patrols will all be held between 6 p.m. on Friday (11/17) and 6 p.m. on Monday (11/27).

Data from the past has shown that the night before Thanksgiving, the holiday itself, the night after Thanksgiving, and the day and night before buck season are all high-incidence time periods for DUI crashes.  Motorists can expect enhanced enforcement activity to take place during that time period, including mid-week.

Stepped-up DUI enforcement will be conducted throughout the three-county area of Adams, Lancaster, and York during the remainder of “Operation Safe Holiday,” which continues through and including New Year’s Day.

“Pennsylvania’s Impaired Driving Program is completely data driven,” says Barbara Zortman, director of the Center for Traffic Safety. “If a sobriety checkpoint is being conducted on a particular stretch of roadway, motorists can rest assured that it is because that specific roadway has been identified as high-incidence for impaired driving related arrests, crashes and / or fatalities.

“The goal of sobriety checkpoints and roving DUI patrols is two-fold: First, and foremost, to remove impaired drivers from the road before someone gets hurt, and to encourage the general public to designate a sober driver or use a taxi service instead of getting behind the wheel impaired.”