The Ghost of Holiday Safety Imparts Wisdom
We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year…or so the song goes. But the New Jersey State Police realize that these warm wishes may never be realized without a visit from the Ghost of Holiday Safety. How do you think Scrooge, in his ghost inspired enthusiasm, was able to avoid slipping on the ice-fouled streets of London while carrying the prize goose to Cratchit's house? The Ghost of Holiday Safety, Scrooge's last-and usually unmentioned-spirit visitor, had fitted old Ebenezer with ice-gripper thermal boots, Gortex gloves and a warm wool cap to avoid an unpleasant ending to a really good story.
The Ghost of Holiday Safety still speaks to us today, leaving us juicy tidbits of advice to make our holidays happy and safe. These lessons in personal security and motoring safety cannot be ignored and we would be remiss if we did not pass them on.
- Foul weather driving Make sure your windshield
wipers, tires, brakes and lights are all in good condition.
Leave extra room for stopping on wet and especially icy
roadways. Assume your trip will take longer than it usually
would during non-holiday, fair weather travels.
- Actions of "the other guy" Be aware of those around
you. Maintain a safe distance from vehicles in front of
you and watch for traffic at all intersections. Monitor
traffic several hundred feet ahead of you for dangerous
activity since those actions will affect you in a matter
- Driving at your best Make sure you get enough rest
before long drives. Avoid distractions such as tending to
children in the back seats, using handheld electronic devices
and talking on handheld phones. Careless driving is both
dangerous and illegal. Of course, do not drive after consuming
alcohol. Every drink reduces a driver's ability to quickly
react to traffic conditions.
- Prepared for action If you have a soda in your
hand, you can't drive like a champion when that critical
moment arrives. It is crucial to wear safety belts correctly
whether your going across the country or around the block.
Statistics show that the 14 percent of those driving without
wearing seatbelts account for more than half of the traffic
One of the most important factors
to personal safety is being aware of your surroundings. Tune
in to what is taking place in your immediate and distant space.
Be alert to the following hazards:
- Invasion of Your Personal Space - Criminals will
try to get physically closer to you by asking a seemingly
innocent question - Do you have the time?; Could you help
me, I'm lost?; Do you have any spare change? It is okay
to be rude and get loud if necessary. Don't let someone
get close, step back and tell them not to get any closer.
Don't fall prey to someone trying to distract you, someone
offering assistance when you didn't ask for any, someone
asking for assistance. Criminals will try every tactic imaginable
to distract you and commit a crime.
- Parking Lots - Look around and see who and what
is around you before unlocking your door and getting out;
check vans or trucks that may be parked next to you for
- Automatic Teller Machines - If you have to use
one, use it during the day and take a friend; if you have
to use one at night, drive around the building, look for
people loitering or trying to hide. Look at vehicles parked
in the vicinity for passengers sitting inside. Try to use
machines that are inside establishments.
- Robberies - Don't carry all your valuables or any
irreplaceable articles. Keep money, credit cards, etc.,
in your pockets and other areas of concealment. If you carry
a purse, carry it close to your body.
- Car Jacking - Keep doors locked, windows up; pay
attention at intersections; leave space between yourself
and the vehicle in front of you; look for escape routes;
plan your route to avoid unfamiliar or dangerous areas.
- Vehicle Security - Keep your vehicles locked at
all times. Do not visibly display items in your vehicle
such as briefcases, purses, backpacks, cell phones, loose
change, bags or packages.
The New Jersey State Police and local police will field extra patrols during the holiday season to assist the motoring public. Working with Department of Transportation Emergency Service Patrols, these officers will be helping stranded travelers, responding to emergencies and enforcing the laws. There will also be patrols specifically targeting aggressive drivers, drinking drivers and occupants not wearing seat belts.
Last year's statistics leave plenty of room for holiday safety improvement. During the 2004 Christmas holiday, there were 15 fatalities in 13 separate crashes. Pedestrians accounted for five of those deaths, and tragically, alcohol intoxication led to six fatalities.
The New Year's period saw five people die in five accidents. Two pedestrians died at the hands of intoxicated drivers and one person on a bicycle was also struck and killed.
The 2005 Christmas holiday period begins at 6:00 p.m., Friday, December 23, and ends at 11:59 p.m., Monday, December 26. So far this year, fatalities are at 701, six ahead of last year during the same time period. The New Jersey total for traffic fatalities in 2004 was 727.
Federal D.O.T. statistics estimate that 716 person's lives may be saved during the Christmas and New Year's holiday period because they will wear their safety belts and an additional 201 lives could be saved if all occupants wore seat belts.
Colonel Rick Fuentes, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police is asking drivers to slow down when approaching accident scenes or troopers conducting motor vehicle stops. Troopers have continued to be involved in, or narrowly escape crashes while stopped for these situations. "Motorists should be prepared to stop or change lanes to allow troopers space to do their jobs safely," Fuentes said.
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