Special to The Messenger
AUSTIN – The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) is encouraging everyone to end 2021 safely as they head out on the road for the holidays. The Texas Highway Patrol will conduct its annual Christmas and New Year’s holiday traffic enforcement campaigns beginning Dec. 23, looking for people who are speeding, not wearing their seat belts, driving while intoxicated or committing other traffic violations.
“It’s always nice to celebrate the holidays with friends and family, but please keep the well-being of other travelers at the forefront of your mind as you head out,” said DPS Director Steven McCraw. “Troopers will be protecting the public on the roads, but we depend on other drivers to do their part, as well, so everyone can have a safe and happy holiday.”
The Highway Patrol will increase enforcement as part of two initiatives: The nationwide Operation CARE (Crash Awareness and Reduction Effort), which runs from Dec. 23 through Jan. 2, as well as Operation Holiday, which runs simultaneously from Dec. 24 through Dec. 26.
During DPS’ 2020 Christmas and New Year’s enforcement efforts, there were 116,810 citations and warnings issued. This included 14,499 speeding citations; 1,636 seat belt and child seat violations; 2,625 citations for driving without insurance; and 820 citations and warnings for Move Over, Slow Down violations. In addition, last year’s enforcement efforts resulted in 1,185 felony arrests, 615 DWI arrests and 355 fugitives arrested.
DPS offers the following tips for making the holiday season a safe one:
- Don’t drink and drive. Make alternate plans if you are consuming alcohol.
- Move Over or Slow Down for police, fire, EMS, Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) vehicles and tow trucks stopped on the side of the road with emergency lights activated. Show the same courtesy to other drivers who are stopped on the side of the road. This year alone, between Jan. 1 and Dec. 14, DPS issued 12,060 warnings and citations for Move Over, Slow Down violations.
- Buckle up everyone in the vehicle, it’s the law.
- Slow down, especially in bad weather, heavy traffic, unfamiliar areas or construction zones.
- Eliminate distractions while driving, including the use of mobile devices. Texas law prohibits the use of portable wireless devices to read, write or send an electronic message unless the vehicle is stopped. If you’re using a navigation device or app, have a passenger manage it, so you can keep your eyes on the road.
- Drive defensively, as holiday travel can present additional challenges.
- Don’t drive fatigued — allow plenty of time to reach your destination.
- On multi-lane roads, use the left lane for passing only. Not only is it courteous driving and avoids impeding traffic, Texas law requires slower traffic to keep to the right and use the left lane for passing only (when posted).
- If you can Steer It, Clear It: If you are involved in a non-injury crash and your vehicle can be moved, clear the traffic lanes to minimize traffic impact. Leaving vehicles in a traffic lane increases traffic congestion and leaves those involved with an increased risk of harm or a secondary wreck. On some highways, if you don’t move your vehicle when it’s safe to do so, it’s illegal.
- Check your vehicle to make sure it’s properly maintained and always ensure your cargo is secure.
- Keep the Texas Roadside Assistance number stored in your phone. Dial 1-800-525-5555 for any type of roadside assistance. The number can also be found on the back of a Texas Driver License.
- Report road hazards or anything suspicious to the nearest law enforcement agency.
- Monitor weather and road conditions wherever you are traveling. For road conditions and closures in Texas, visit Drive Texas.