Data from Pennsylvania State Police

A graphic of the data released by state police, displaying the crash and enforcement data from November 21 to 25. (Graphic by Samantha Karam)

The period from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day is the busiest motorist season of the year.

“There are more travelers on the road, more drivers on the road and more people driving impaired on the road,” said Ryan Tarkowski, the communications director for Pennsylvania State Police (PSP).

According to the latest statistics provided by the state police, over the four-day Thanksgiving holiday weekend, there were 135 more crashes in Pennsylvania this year than last, up from 981 in 2017 to 1116 in 2018. As a result, 213 people were injured this year, compared to last year’s total of 209. There were also 8 more DUI arrests, up to 637 in this year compared to 629 last year. Seat belt citations rose to 1256 this year from last year’s 1125.

Note: These figures do not reflect incidents handled by local, municipal police, only state police.

“When people ask why crashes are up or DUI arrests are down in any particular year, we tell them that these figures fluctuate from year to year and that there is no single factor to explain the fluctuations, although weather conditions obviously play an important role,” Tarkowski said.

Greene County was spared of any crash fatalities over the Thanksgiving weekend, according to information provided by state police. The entirety of PSP Troop B, which includes Greene, Washington, Fayette and Allegheny counties, was also fatality free. Greene County did experience 1 crash and 1 injury during this year’s four-day period.

In addition to enforcement during the holiday season, Tarkowski said state police is engaged in education, such as the series of free car seat clinics taking place throughout the state, which continued through December 2. Troopers and other state police members certified as child passenger safety technicians were available to assist with car seat installation and to answer any questions parents might have.

“Child safety seats are required by law in Pennsylvania, but they are only effective when installed and used correctly,” said PSP Major Edward Hoke, acting deputy commissioner of staff. “Every seat is different, which is why trained child passenger safety technicians are available to personally assist parents and caregivers with their own seats and vehicles.”

According to Tarkowski, a recent series of inspection events across the state that involved 299 car seats at 51 inspection sessions revealed that 191 or 64% of the car seats were improperly installed. The last car seat clinic held in Troop B this year was on November 28 in Allegheny County. The last one held in Greene County was on November 21 at the Cumberland Township Fire Department in Carmichaels.

With the Christmas holiday season coming up later this month, Tarkowski said the state police will be watching for everything from impaired and aggressive driving to people driving without seat belts.

“We’ll have saturation patrols and check points out on the road working with local law enforcement offices to make sure that people on the roads get to their destinations safely,” he said.

“The most effective ways to prevent collisions on the roadways and to arrive at your holiday destinations safely is to slow down, designate a sober driver and never drive distracted,” said PennDOT District Executive Mike Keiser, P.E. “When crashes do happen, PennDOT and first responders will work quickly to help the involved parties and keep traffic moving.”

Travelers can check up-to-the-minute traffic information statewide at www.511PA.com or the PA511 smartphone app. Additionally, conditions on the current conditions on the Pennsylvania Turnpike can be viewed at www.paturnpike.com.

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