The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is predicting that nearly 600 people may die this holiday weekend due to car accidents that occur each year on the country's highways and interstates.
While more than 80 percent of U.S. drivers polled say they wear their seatbelts, more than half of the 31,000 people who died in car crashes last year were not properly restrained, the agency reported.
That's why local police officers will set up extra patrols to make sure drivers who hit the roads for the holidays are driving safely and observing all the traffic laws.
"We just encourage people to travel safely, wear their seatbelts, watch their speeds and don't drink and drive," Sgt. Steve Hibler, with the Indiana State Police, told the BannerGraphic.
Also he said drivers should keep their eyes on the weather, allow enough time to get where they're going and be alert to other drivers.
Hibler said he remembers a Thanksgiving when a drunk driver's indiscretion caused the life of a family on Interstate 70 in Hendricks County.
It was in 1988 that Hibler, who was working as a road patrolman at the time, responded to a drunk driver who hit a family traveling on Thanksgiving Day. Everyone died in the accident except for a 15-year-old girl, he said.
The State Police, along with the Greencastle Street Department and Putnam County Sheriff's Department, will step up patrols on area roads this week.
Hibler said extra officers will be on the interstate and state highways watching for drunk drivers and seatbelt violations. Indiana law dictates that all people are to be properly restrained in a vehicle, including adults. Children should be placed in a safety seat appropriate for their age and weight.
The extra patrols will be paid for through a grant from the federal Combined Accident Reduction Effort (CARE), Hibler said.
Brian Hopkins, assistant chief with Greencastle Police, said the department will have extra officers patrolling the streets from now through Dec. 3 as part of Operation Pullover. They too will be watching for seatbelt violations and intoxicated drivers.