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Holiday travelers: Be safe out there

For the next few days, law enforcement officials will be out in full force to help make holiday travel safer.

"Last year, we had the safest holiday season in a decade," Lt. Carl Roark, commander of the Ironton post of the Ohio Highway Patrol, said. "We have a challenge to make it just as safe, if not safer."

Throughout the entire state, the patrol plans to have every available officer on the road visible to travelers, enforcing traffic laws, Roark said. Overtime has been allotted for the increase. He added that even though the patrol does not expect more travel than usual, traffic is always heavy on Thanksgiving.

Roark said traffic has not increased significantly at this time. But, Senior Trooper Jay Powers, media spokesman for the West Virginia State Police said West Virginia's traffic had already increased by Tuesday, probably a result of West Virginia's deer season, which began Monday.

In Kentucky, traffic has greatly increased already, especially on Interstate 64 and U.S. 23, Trooper Sam Little of the Kentucky State Police said, adding that Thanksgiving travel usually increases each year. Plus, many college students will be on the road headed home for the holiday, he said.

However, if more people are traveling earlier, the holiday rush will not be as hectic, Roark said.

Eight people were killed in crashes throughout Ohio during the 2001 Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Six of those killed were not wearing seatbelts. There were nine fatalities in West Virginia last year, and nine in Kentucky. Six of those killed in Kentucky were not wearing seatbelts.

Law enforcement agencies in all three states are a part of the Combined Accident Reduction Enforcement (CARE) group, Roark said.

"They have all agreed to serve to aggressively report seatbelt law enforcement," he continued.

Also, troopers will be involved in ABC -- America Buckling Up Children -- in which they will be aggressively enforcing Ohio's child safety seat law. Children younger than 4 and weighing less than 40 pounds must be restrained in a child safety seat. Although not wearing a safety belt is a secondary violation, meaning that someone must be pulled over for another offense such as speeding, if a trooper sees an unrestrained child, the driver may be stopped.

"We ask everyone traveling to slow down and, please, don't drink and drive," Roark said.