The best ways to stay safe while driving this Thanksgiving

Nov 25, 2014, 6:00 AM | Updated: 10:45 am

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, it’s important to make sure you get to and from your holiday destinations safely.

The Arizona Department of Transportation said there are no construction closures scheduled along Phoenix-area freeways or state highways over the Thanksgiving weekend.

ADOT says to be extremely careful when driving, and don’t rush off to Thanksgiving celebrations. 13 people were killed in a total of 10 fatal crashes along Arizona highways and local roads over the Thanksgiving weekend last year, ADOT says. Three of those fatal crashes were alcohol-related.

ADOT, the Department of Public Safety and Governor’s Office of Highway Safety are asking motorists to follow a few safe-driving tips like getting a good night’s sleep, buckling up and double-checking child safety seats, not texting while driving and being prepared for unscheduled closures due to accidents.

ADOT is also teaming up with DPS and the Black Canyon City and Daisy Mountain fire departments to focus on emergency response efforts along Interstate 17 north of Phoenix, especially when heavier traffic is expected on Wednesday and Sunday afternoons. ADOT will position vehicles and equipment in the Anthem and Cordes Junction areas to allow crews to quickly respond to crashes or disabled vehicles and reopen the highway in the event of closures or lane restrictions.

The Arizona Highway Patrol Association is also offering some tips to make sure you stay aware of your surroundings while driving. With the holidays upon us, traffic on the highways is increasing.

“First and foremost is to observe traffic laws, whether its speed limits, lane restrictions, those kinds of things. Watch out for construction that’s going on,” said president of The AHPA, Sergeant Jimmy Chavez.

Blinding dust storms can occur in Arizona even during the winter months. Drivers need to be aware that if dust storms do pop up, he or she should take the necessary precautions to make sure nothing happens when they are driving through them, Chavez said.

Chavez also suggests you take advantage of rest stops, especially during long drives. He also advises people to not drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs, this includes prescription medication.

“Some of the other tips would be to check the vehicle; tire pressure, fluids, (and) have emergency supplies handy, just in case,” Chavez said.

You should carry an emergency kit that includes items such as cell phones, flashlights (with extra batteries), jumper cables, and water when you road trip.

The AHPA encourages anyone who views suspicious or aggressive drivers on the road to call 911. Make sure your calls can be made safely using a hands-free device to avoid any distractions and limit your cellphone use to emergency calls only.

Also make sure to check your tires before hitting the road this holiday. Valley auto experts are urging people to make sure their car is as ready to travel as they are. Matt Allen with KTAR’s Bumper to Bumper Radio said the most important thing to check on before heading out is a vehicle’s tires.

“You want to get the pressure set right, but you also want to look at the tread to make sure we don’t have any of that choppiness, or bald spots or cracking or anything in the tires,” Allen said.

Allen said checking a tires air pressure is simple to do and the correct pressure is often found on the car’s door sticker or in the owner’s manual. Beside tires, Allen also recommends people make sure their windshield wipers are in good condition and that their wiper fluid will not freeze.

“So if you’re traveling up north or going skiing or going somewhere where the weather may freeze, that’s a good idea too,” Allen said.

He said some of these simple checks can go a long way to preventing tire blowouts or accidents and can help keep drivers safe this holiday.

For more information on the latest highway conditions across the state, visit ADOT’s Travel Information site or call 511. If you’re traveling outside Arizona, call 1-888-411-ROAD. ADOT’s public information line for state highway conditions is 602-712-6513. You can also track closures and other highway conditions through ADOT’s Twitter account.

KTAR’S Lauren Grifo and Mark Remillard contributed to this report.

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The best ways to stay safe while driving this Thanksgiving