JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — As thousands of Missouri drivers hit the roads to spend Thanksgiving with family and friends next week, the Missouri Department of Transportation is urging them to exercise patience, caution and good judgment behind the wheel.
The holiday week brings a trifecta of concerns to the roadway, including impaired driving, distracted driving and heavy interstate congestion. The night before Thanksgiving, sometimes referred to as Blackout Wednesday, has become a popular night for get-togethers at bars, often resulting in heavy drinking. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, from 2013 to 2017, more than 800 people died in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes during the Thanksgiving holiday period, making it one of the deadliest holidays on our roadways.
“In Missouri, we've averaged 16 people dying on our roadways each year during the Thanksgiving holiday period,” said Jon Nelson, assistant to the state highway safety and traffic engineer. “These tragedies are completely preventable and should be considered unacceptable. Instead of simply accepting these deaths as inevitable, we have every reason to believe zero fatalities can be achieved during the 2019 holiday if we all make responsible choices behind the wheel.”
In addition to Thanksgiving celebrations, Black Friday brings another hazard to Missouri roadways. On a day notoriously associated with impatient shoppers, MoDOT urges drivers to keep the online shopping out of the driver's seat.
“A lot of people want to bounce around from store to store finding the best deals on Black Friday. Please leave the mobile shopping and phone calls to your passengers,” said Nelson. “Don't throw away your bargains by making a poor choice. Buckle up, phone down.”
Distracted and impaired driving aren't the only concerns for drivers next week. AAA estimates nearly 50 million people will be on the nation's roadways, with congestion peaking Wednesday afternoon. This is the highest anticipated Thanksgiving travel volume since 2005. Trips could take as much as four times longer, and travelers should expect delays throughout the week.
An increase in travel volume means Missouri interstate routes will be heavily crowded. MoDOT's urges drivers to stay in the know with MO on the Go — a suite of communication tools for drivers to stay up-to-date on what's happening on Missouri's roadways, including the Traveler Information Map, text alerts, email notifications and information on real-time traffic flow.