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Authorities out in force for holiday

Law enforcement officials are hoping to bethankful for incident-free travel and reasonable public conductwhen this Thanksgiving holiday season officially begins.

    According to the Mississippi Highway Patrol (MHP), the holidayperiod will begin Wednesday at 6 p.m. and continue through midnightSunday, Nov. 27.

    “Local motorists can expect to see an increase in efforts by theHighway Patrol to locate violations that put drivers at risk onstate and federal highways,” said Sergeant Rusty Boyd, MHP publicaffairs official, in a press release Tuesday.

    Boyd said high priority violations include seatbelt and childrestraint violations, as well as DUIs.

    “People should plan ahead,” Boyd suggested about avoiding DUIs.”Choose a designated driver who will not be drinking, plan onstaying at the location or call someone who is sober to drive youhome. It is not worth the risk.”

    In regard to restraints, Boyd cited 20 fatal collisions District 9troopers have responded to this year that yielded 23 fatalities.Thirteen were unrestrained.

    “Being restrained will improve a person’s chances of surviving andlessen the severity of injuries during a motor vehicle collision,”Boyd said.

    Boyd said the road belongs to everyone on it and not just those whomay think they will not cause problems.

    “The safer each one of us drives, the safer we all are,” he said.”We all share the same roadways.”

    In the city limits, Brookhaven Police Chief Pap Henderson urgedmotorists and pedestrians to be aware of each other when out on theroads.

    “There are a lot of young people around and out of school walkingand riding bicycles,” he said. “Encourage them to stay on the sideof the road and on the sidewalks. And we need parents to help usout with that. I’ll be the first to tell you we can’t be everywhereat one time.”

    Henderson also said people will start to see officers on footpatrol downtown for the holiday season lasting through Christmasholidays. He hopes the tactic will help to curb his biggestcomplaint this time of year: shoplifting.

    “For visibility purposes,” he said. “From the time the store openuntil they close. In the shopping centers away from downtown, therewill be more patrol cars in the lots.”

    Out in the county, Sheriff Steve Rushing urged citizens to becareful traveling during one the country’s biggest travelholidays.

    “All my guys will be working as usual,” he said. “We don’t usuallysee the number of complaints or DUIs increase. But some people getto roaming when they drink. Just stay where you’re at, or getyourself a designated driver.”

    Indeed, this holiday is projected to be a big travel holiday forAmerican motorists.

    According to AAA (American Automobile Association), 42.5 millionpeople will travel at least 50 miles this Thanksgiving, up 4percent from last year’s 40.9 million.

    Despite higher gas prices than last year – a $3.39 per gallonnation average compared to $2.88 per gallon last year – AAA’s VicePresident Bill Sutherland said in a press release why they believetravel numbers will increase.

    “Driving AAA’s projected increase in the number of Thanksgivingtravelers is pent-up demand from Americans who may have foregoneholiday travel the last three years,” he said.

    Mississippi Department of Transportation spokesman Jeff Humberreminded people of highway closures in District 7, which includesnine counties in Southwest Mississippi, that will remain in effectthrough the holiday.

    On Interstate 55, one-lane traffic ensues in the north andsouthbound lanes north of the Bogue Chitto exit and the bridge overBrookway Boulevard at mile marker 40.

    On Highway 98 in Pike County from the McComb city limits to theWalthall County line, expect head-to-head traffic in the eastboundlanes for eight miles as the westbound lanes are underreconstruction, Humber said in the statement.

    And on Highway 84 in Jefferson Davis County between Prentiss andthe Covington County line, expect head-to-head traffic for fivemiles due to reconstruction, he said.