Ahead of Thanksgiving, state agencies are reminding Texans to drive safely, watch out for hazards and move over for emergency vehicles.

The Texas Department of Public Safety will increase traffic enforcement Nov. 23-27, according to a news release. During Thanksgiving weekend, the DPS will also participate in Operation CARE, a nationwide crash awareness and reduction effort.

Last Thanksgiving, the DPS issued over 36,000 warnings and citations, including 3,306 for speeding, the release said. Troopers also arrested 225 drivers for felonies and 138 for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

“As we head into a busy holiday season, we must remember to make safety the No. 1 priority,” DPS Director Steve McCraw said in the release. “Obey all traffic laws; don’t drink and drive; put your phones down behind the wheel; and look out for each other. The message is the same every year, but it’s a message that can save lives.”

According to the Texas Department of Transportation, nearly one-fourth of traffic deaths during the holidays are caused by drunk drivers. From Dec. 1, 2021, to Jan. 1, 2022, over 48,600 traffic crashes occurred across Texas. According to a news release from TxDOT, 433 of those crashes were fatal.

TxDOT reported drunk driving was a factor in 23% of traffic fatalities during last year’s holiday season with 98 people killed as a result.

Officials recommend designating a sober driver, calling a taxi, using a ride-hailing app, calling a friend or family member, and using public transportation to ensure you get home safely when drinking.

Holiday travel nears prepandemic levels

AAA Texas reported 4 million Texans are expected to travel at least 50 miles for Thanksgiving. This includes 3.6 million drivers, according to a news release, while at least 238,000 Texans will fly to their holiday destinations.

This is about 95% of typical Thanksgiving travel before the pandemic.

With more drivers on the road for holiday travel, the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation said drivers should also expect to see more motorists and emergency vehicles on the side of the road.

State law requires drivers to change lanes or slow down to 20 miles per hour below the speed limit when passing a first responder stopped on the road, according to a TDLR news release. First responders include tow trucks, fire trucks, police cars, ambulances and TxDOT vehicles.

“Our tow truck licensees work hard every day to help people who are stranded on the side of the road. And, like everyone else, they are anxious to return home safely each night,” TDLR Executive Director Mike Arismendez Jr. said in the release. “Holiday memories are made when family gathers. Do your part to make that happen for all.”

State agencies encourage drivers to keep themselves and others safe this Thanksgiving by doing the following:

  • Do not drive while under the influence of drugs or alcohol;

  • Pull over or switch drivers if feeling tired;

  • Ensure the driver and all passengers are wearing seat belts;

  • Eliminate distractions and do not use mobile devices while driving;

  • Move over and slow down for vehicles stopped on the side of the road;

  • If involved in a crash, move your vehicle to the side of the road whenever possible;

  • Report road hazards to local law enforcement;

  • Monitor weather/road conditions before and during travel; and

  • Leave extra time to get to your destination.