ASP increasing patrols ahead of busy holiday travel

JACKSON COUNTY, AR (KAIT) - Most families come to expect a few things at Thanksgiving - turkey, trimmings and travel.

According to this year's AAA Thanksgiving Travel Forecast, 43.6 million people are expected to drive more than 50 miles from home between November 21 and November 26.

That's a 0.7 percent increase from the same holiday period last year.

The auto group also projects that about 90 percent of this year's travelers will be hitting the roads, which has put local law enforcement agencies on alert.

Arkansas State Police (ASP) announced Friday that its troopers will step up patrols through the week-long holiday travel period, starting this Monday.

"All of our major holidays, we have to step up our enforcement activity because of the increase in traffic," said Cpl. Joe Williams with ASP Troop B in Newport.

History has shown that the additional traffic produced by Thanksgiving commuters has led to more accidents and fatalities.

That's why ASP will more closely watch next week for unbuckled drivers.

"We have a statewide seat belt mobilization campaign that begins November 19 and runs through November 25," Williams said. "During that period of time, we'll spend our time stopping people that are not buckled."

Williams says troopers will also focus on speeding and impaired driving, though cracking down on unbuckled drivers will hopefully create more awareness to stay safe.

During the week of Thanksgiving in 2010, seven people died in car crashes in Arkansas. According to ASP, 57 percent of those killed were not wearing seat belts.

Several Jackson County residents said Friday that they planned to stay at home for the holidays, avoiding the roads altogether for different reasons.

"This year, I decided to save some money," said Christopher Davis of Newport. "I'm going to cook at home this Thanksgiving and just stay here. Gas prices are so high. Everything's so high, so I just kind of wanted to save up."

"Our family comes in from Florida and also from up north in Illinois," said Kristin James of Newark, "so we're getting together, making a big Thanksgiving dinner and plan out our shopping adventure for Black Friday."

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