Law enforcement reminds drivers to pay attention during 'deadliest holiday' on roadways

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DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- As Thanksgiving weekend approaches, officers are reminding drivers in Iowa to be more aware of their surroundings and road conditions.

When associating the holiday weekend where the most fatalities from car accidents occur, common guesses include the Fourth of July or New Years.

According to the Iowa Department of Transportation, in the last 10 years, Thanksgiving weekend (Wednesday evening before Thanksgiving through early Monday morning) has 25% more fatal crashes than any other holiday weekend.

During that time span, 61 fatalities have happened during Thanksgiving weekend.

Many Iowans will spend time with friends and family, but police want to send a clear message: overlooking the importance of driving safely, especially this weekend, is significantly outweighed by the facts.

The statistics show an increased danger on the roads Iowans should be aware of.

"I think people often overlook this holiday as being one of the most deadliest in terms of our nation's roadways," said Lt. Scott Baxter of the Dubuque Police Department.

"I think people usually look at New Year's Eve, St Patrick's Day, Fourth of July, you mentioned as being more problematic holidays. Where in reality this is close to the top, if not the top," Lt. Baxter said.

Since 2007, the Fourth of July is the only holiday to have more alcohol-related fatalities.

The difference between the Fourth of July and Thanksgiving? Two.

One of the statistics found in the data from the Iowa D.O.T. and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration would be the frequency of impaired driving.

In the past five years alone, more than 800 died in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes during Thanksgiving weekend. That assists in making this coming weekend the deadliest holiday on the roadways.

But impairment is defined by many organizations as more than just driving under the influence; it also includes driving fatigued or distracted.

"If you even feel the slightest bit of impairment don't get behind the wheel," Lt. Baxter said. "There's plenty of other options for you. You think about the long-term effect that can have if you kill yourself or someone else or both, it's simply not worth it."

A lot of drivers may not even realize a form of impairment is distracted driving. According to AAA, there are estimates that suggest distractions contribute to 16% of all fatal crashes.

To put that into perspective, that's about 5,000 deaths every year in which distracted driving contributes.

Law enforcement agrees it's less about your ability as a driver and more about paying attention to your surroundings, especially this holiday season.