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Stay safe this holiday weekend

Local and state law enforcement agencies will be increasing their presence on local roads and state highways in Oxford this Thanksgiving weekend, in hopes that the holiday is a safe and happy one for residents.

“The holidays are a special time,” said Maj. Jeff McCutchen with the Oxford Police Department. “We don’t want anyone spending Thanksgiving grieving over a loved one. So put down the phone, slow down and use a designated driver if you’ve been drinking.”

McCutchen said patrol officers will be keeping an eye out for drivers under the influence and distracted drivers.

“We had one fatality last Thanksgiving,” he said. “We don’t want of our local families to have to deal with that this year.”

Virginia “Ginny” Leanne Dillard, 37, of Pontotoc, was killed on Thanksgiving 2015 after the car she was driving was hit while traveling on Highway 6.

The Mississippi Highway Patrol investigated 221 crashes including four fatalities during the 2015 Thanksgiving enforcement period. Safety checkpoints will be conducted by troopers in order to enforce child restraint and seat belt laws while also removing impaired drivers.

However, police officers can’t be everywhere at once. Buckling up is the best defense against injury or death should you be involved in a wreck, according to the Mississippi Department of Transportation.

In 2015, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported the national average for seat belt usage rate was 88 percent.  Due to enforcement laws in each state, seat belt usage rates have been on the rise since 1995.  However, Mississippi consistently falls below the national average for seat belt usage. In 2015, Mississippi averaged a 74 percent usage down from 78 percent in 2014.

During the Thanksgiving holiday weekend in 2014, there were 341 people killed in traffic crashes across the nation. Fifty percent of those killed were not buckled up.

Experts say wearing a seat belt as a front-seat occupant can reduce the risk of fatal injury by 45 percent.

“Surviving your Thanksgiving drive this year can be as simple as buckling up,”said MDOT Executive Director Melinda McGrath. “In the last decade, seat belts saved the lives of more than 100,000 people in the United States.”