Thanksgiving travel sees spike in drunk driving, speeding

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(The Center Square) — Thanksgiving travel in Pennsylvania was riskier than last year, as fatal crashes and deaths went up, along with more alcohol-related and speeding problems.

The issues are in line with what some advocates warn is a rise in distracted driving, though traffic deaths have started to decline after years of increases.

According to data from the Pennsylvania State Police, troopers investigated 979 crashes during Nov.r 22-26 that involved four deaths, with 73 crashes alcohol-connected. Another 197 people were injured in those crashes.

State troopers made almost 550 DUI arrests and ticketed 10,590 people for speeding, along with almost 19,000 other citations.

Some of those numbers are significantly higher than last Thanksgiving. In 2022, only one person died on the road and 48 alcohol-related crashes were recorded. Three fewer DUI arrests were made last year and nine fewer crashes happened, but speeding citations are up 14.5% and other citations are up by almost 19%.

The PSP data only counts incidents the agency responded to, excluding local law enforcement data. But state police didn’t explain the numbers by any policy changes, such as more troopers patrolling or covering more miles of road.

“While our enforcement numbers may vary from year to year, we don’t attribute changes to any specific factors,” PSP Press Assistant Chris Caracino said. “They merely reflect our ongoing commitment to protect our roadways. We can’t stress enough the importance of driving carefully, obeying the laws, making sure all passengers are properly secured, avoiding distractions, and not getting behind the wheel if you are impaired.”

Neighboring states sharing similar data saw more deaths, though the data isn’t directly comparable. In Ohio, after three years of rising deaths, the Ohio State Highway Patrol reported deaths dropped from 19 to eight.

In recent years, Pennsylvania traffic deaths and crashes have declined, though distracted-driving crashes and deaths have significantly increased. Some advocates have pressed for stronger laws to punish distracted driving, and some reports have blamed pandemic-era habits for making things worse.

Though drunk driving incidents went up this Thanksgiving, alcohol-related crashes have gone down for several years in Pennsylvania.

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