Dec. 30, 1999 December 22, 1999 -- As Americans celebrate during the holiday season and welcome the new millennium, U.S. Transportation Secretary Rodney E. Slater today urged everyone to travel safely by buckling up, driving sober, heeding traffic signs and being patient with delays.
"Safety is President Clinton’s and Vice President Gore’s highest transportation priority," Secretary Slater said. "Following commonsense safety tips and planning ahead will increase the chance that we’ll all enjoy a safe holiday season. Wise travelers will buckle up, observe traffic signs, share the road and avoid drinking and driving during the holidays."
Secretary Slater said that the American traveling public can expect the transportation system to be as safe and efficient in 2000 as it is today, although travelers could face minor disruptions as they do on any given day.
Estimates from the department's Bureau of Transportation Statistics indicate that the Christmas holidays and the days associated with them are some of the most heavily traveled of the year in terms of trips of 100 miles or more away from home. In 1995, the latest year from which statistics are available, the day after Christmas was the third most heavily traveled day of the year, behind the Sunday after Thanksgiving and Easter. In the 5-day period around and including Christmas day about 83 percent of long distance trips were by car and other types of personal vehicles and 16 percent by air. About three-quarters of long distance trips in this period were to visit friends and relatives.
According to the department’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 364 people were killed on the nation’s highways during the three-day Christmas weekend last year and 545 during the four-day 1997-98 New Year’s weekend. Nearly half (48 percent) of the 1998 Christmas weekend fatalities were alcohol-related and more than half (51 percent) of the New Year’s weekend fatalities were alcohol-related. This compares to 38 percent of 1998 traffic fatalities.
Based on reports from the airline, rail, transit, cruise, and automobile industries, travelers are not expected to encounter significant Year 2000 (Y2K) problems on Jan. 1. Nevertheless, travelers are advised that unforeseen Y2K effects, weather, increased traveler volume, and holiday celebrations could cause delays.
To arrive safely and happily at your destination, Secretary Slater suggested allowing extra time for trips and following these travel tips:
If You Drive...
- Don't drink and drive. Practice safe driving by buckling your seat belts while traveling.
- At a non-working traffic light, follow the state law -- most states require a four-way stop.
- If reversible travel lane signals are inoperative, follow regular lane designations.
- Stop, look and listen at all rail crossings. Always expect a train.
- Carry cash or traveler checks in case automatic payment systems at self-service gas pumps, electronic tolls, and parking lots are not working.
- Stay tuned to the news for Y2K-related updates. For the latest roadway information go to http://www.FHWA.dot.gov/trafficinfo and be aware of alternate routes.
If You Fly...
- Before you head for the airport, call to confirm airline flight departure and arrival times.
- Allow extra time for parking, ticketing, security procedures and baggage claim.
- Check your parking lot ticket and receipt to make sure the date is accurate.
- Consider taking public transportation to and from the airport.
- If you are flying internationally, check http://www.dot.gov/fly2k for evaluations of foreign nations' aviation systems readiness for Y2K.
For Other Travel Plans...
- Make travel and hotel reservations early.
- For rail trips, call ahead (1-800-USA-RAIL) to confirm departure and arrival times.
- Check with your cruise line or travel agent for any last-minute instructions on your itinerary.
- Follow the directions of transit officials. Some transit providers may temporarily halt rail service around midnight on New Year’s Eve to verify that systems are operating properly.
- In reporting an emergency to a 9-1-1 operator, be specific as to the location and nature of the emergency. 9-1-1 is for emergencies only.
- Check all weather and road conditions before your trip.
- Follow good winter auto maintenance. Change the oil, keep your gas tank at least half full, keep your tires and spare inflated, and make sure your winter emergency kit includes antifreeze, a working flashlight with batteries, extra blankets, and hazard markers.
- If you have a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver or electronic vehicle-navigation equipment, ask the manufacturer if it is Y2K compliant. For more information, call 1-888-USA-4-Y2K or visit http://www.navcen.uscg.mil/gps/geninfo/y2k/default.htm
NHTSA research indicates that safety belts reduce the risk of death in a crash by about half. The risk is reduced for front-seat passengers in cars by 45 percent and for occupants of pickups, vans and sport utility vehicles by 60 percent. Research on the effectiveness of child safety seats has shown a reduction in fatal injuries by 71 percent for infants and 54 percent for toddlers in passenger cars; the percentages are slightly higher in light trucks.
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