While millions of Thanksgiving travelers will be braving airports this week, state and local law enforcement agencies will again be watching for intoxicated and distracted drivers behind the wheel and passengers without seat belts.
Beginning today, Texas Highway Patrol Troopers will increase enforcement on the roads through Sunday, Nov. 28. DPS Troopers will be looking for people not wearing seat belts, driving while intoxicated, speeding and failing to follow the Move Over, Slow Down law, among other traffic violations.
“This Thanksgiving more people will be out and it’s important to remember it’s up to each one of us to keep the roads safe,” DPS Director Steven McCraw said. “DPS will do its part to keep Texas safe by holding people accountable, and we want everyone who may be driving for the holiday to do their part by obeying all traffic laws, so everyone gets to their destinations unharmed.”
Annually DPS participates in the nationwide Operation CARE (Crash Awareness and Reduction Effort) initiative for the Thanksgiving holiday. In DPS’s 2020 enforcement effort, troopers issued 36,902 warnings and citations that included 5,287 for speeding; 752 for driving without insurance; 513 for seat belt and child seat infractions and 245 violations of the Move Over, Slow Down law. Among those were 395 felony arrests, 205 DWI arrests and 120 fugitive arrests.
Locally, there are more Comal County Sheriff’s Office deputies out on patrol this week as school resource officers are available because schools are out.
“That increase in officers will be visible throughout the county, and we just want to wish everyone to have a safe and merry holiday,” Sheriff Mark Reynolds said.
So are New Braunfels police, who annually participate in the Texas Department of Transportation’s “Click It or Ticket” seat-belt campaign and the nationwide Selective Traffic Enforcement Program (STEP), which provides additional patrol officers at peak times throughout the year, especially during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.
“The Click It or Ticket campaign promotes and encourages proper seatbelt and child safety seat use, especially while traveling during the holidays,” said David Ferguson, city communications coordinator.
State and federal funding through the STEP program steps up local enforcement of “distracted drivers, speeders, drunk drivers, those not wearing seat belts, and those who disregard traffic signals and markings at busy intersections,” Ferguson said.
Eye what you fry
The four-day holiday period brings a little of everything — such as opportunities for thieves to prey upon unlocked cars filled with yuletide presents, and cooking and heater fires sparked by impatience and carelessness.
Fire and law enforcement officials say both are the leading causes of holiday misery – and easily avoidable.
“Make sure frying apparatuses are at least 10 to 20 feet away from your house, that way if there’s a spillover of hot oil your house doesn’t burn,” Comal County Fire Marshal Kory Klabunde said. “If it does catch fire, don’t put water on it. Just put the lid on it or let it burn out.”
Fires are also sparked by space heaters.
“Just make sure they are plugged into the wall and away from combustibles – at least 36 inches or 3 feet away,” Klabunde said. “Make sure they are UL-listed and have tip-over sensors.
“Also, if with any kind of gas or wood fireplaces, make sure you have carbon dioxide detectors and make sure they have batteries and are working.”
Law officers say holiday gifts stored up in vehicles parked at malls and retail outlets are too tempting for some to resist. Former New Braunfels Police Chief Tom Wibert liked to say, “The bad guys go shopping, too. And they’ll do it in shopping center parking lots.”
NBPD’s current Chief, Keith Lane, agrees.
“Holiday safety is all about awareness — be aware of your surroundings,” Lane said. “Don’t leave what you buy out in the open in the car. Cover it up — it’s an easy target.
“Having a safe holiday is what it’s all about in the end.”
Sheriff Reynolds reminds people not to carry more packages than needed. Have at least one hand free to defend against someone approaching in person.
“Don’t have your hands so full that you can’t protect yourself,” he said.