HAMPDEN TOWNSHIP, Pa. (WHTM) — PennDOT and local police departments want to make sure everyone gets where they’re going safely this holiday season.
They’re participating in Operation Safe Holiday, a national education campaign warning of the dangers of drunk and distracted driving. Holiday parties are ramping up, causing concern for those on the roads.
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If you plan on driving over the next month or so, police want you to be extra cautious.
“When it comes to drinking and driving, and these accidents, and these fatalities, they don’t just happen, like a choice was made, that led to ’em,” said Cpl. Rick Tamanosky with Lower Allen Township Police Department.
Tamanosky unfortunately knows that too well. When he was just two years old in 1973, his sister Debra was killed by a drunk driver on the way to the school bus.
And in 2007 his wife Christine was killed head-on by a drunk driver in York County.
“I’ll never forget telling my three children that their mom’s never coming home,” Tamanosky said.
But he says these crashes are preventable.
“Be responsible. Stay home. Get a ride, Uber, whatever,” Tamanosky said.
From the Wednesday before Thanksgiving through January 2 of last year, PennDOT data shows 1,000 impaired driving crashes and 26 deaths.
“We’ve actually seen an increase in DUI or impaired driving crashes throughout the pandemic,” said Amy Bollinger, program manager of pediatric trauma and injury prevention at Penn State Health Children’s Hospital. “It’s like people have forgotten how to drive people are distracted. People are drinking at home and then getting behind the wheel of their car to run errands.
As a trauma nurse, Bollinger has seen just how bad these things can be.
“Do not get behind the wheel if there’s even a remote chance you might be impaired,” Bollinger said. “Your life and the lives of those around you are entirely precious for tragedies like these.”
Officials expect alcohol-related crashes will increase between now and New Year’s but they also warn of drugged, aggressive and distracted drivers on the roads.