Florida authorities are girding for the onslaught of motorists that take to the roads for the Thanksgiving holiday.
According to AAA, nearly 51 million Americans will travel at least 50 miles or more away from their home for the holiday, with 2.6 million Floridians among the travelers.
The state's highway patrol plans to increase its presence starting Tuesday, with all sworn personnel, including Auxiliary and Reserve troopers, to patrol state roadways through Sunday.
During the 2016 Thanksgiving holiday period, law enforcement agencies statewide worked more than 10,000 crashes. Of the people involved in those accidents last year, only two percent were not wearing their seatbelts, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. However, more than 30 percent of those that died in those holiday crashes were not wearing a seatbelt, the agency added.
In 2015, Florida tallied 9,906 crashes during the holiday period. Of the 84 people who died in those accidents, 17 were not wearing seat belts, officials said.
“It’s imperative to buckle all seat belts, get plenty of rest before a long trip and allow sufficient time to reach your destination.” Colonel Gene Spaulding, director of the Florida Highway Patrol, said in a news release.
The Thanksgiving period—6 p.m. Wednesday to 5:59 a.m. Monday—is the deadliest holiday for U.S. roads, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.
And, with the upcoming holiday expected to have more Americans traveling than in a dozen years, federal transportation officials are stressing the importance of wearing a seat belt, while also warning against drinking and driving.
From 2012 to 2016, more than 800 people died in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes during the Thanksgiving period, according to federal statistics.