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Motorists urged to travel safely

Whether traveling over multiple state lines for a three-day break or just headed home from work to enjoy the fruits of their labor, motorists should be cautious in Labor Day weekend traffic.

The Mississippi Highway Patrol began its travel enforcement period Friday at 12:01 a.m. It will conclude Monday at midnight. Cpl. Brandon Fortenberry of Brookhaven said Troop M will be out in full force throughout the holiday weekend. They’ll be looking to get distracted or impaired drivers off the road. They’ll also be issuing citations for drivers texting on cell phones or drivers and passengers not wearing seat belts.

Troop M, which is located in Brookhaven, serves Lincoln, Lawrence, Walthall, Pike, Amite, Wilkinson, Adams, Jefferson and Franklin counties.

Fortenberry said patrols will be ramped up for Labor Day with some much needed federal funding helping put additional troopers on the roads.

He urged drivers to stay buckled and “put those cell phones down.”

He suggests drivers avoid text messaging or any distraction that could endanger lives and to have sober designated drivers in place when necessary. Children should be properly restrained in seats based on their weight.

Whether it’s Labor Day, Thanksgiving or Christmas, motorists must be vigilant when they get behind the wheel.

“All of the holidays are dangerous when you have that many people on the road,” he said.

Safety checkpoints will also be established throughout the period to promote seat belt usage and remove impaired drivers from the roadways.

Krystal Rogers, a community outreach associate for the independent safety review site SafeWise, said Labor Day is one of the most dangerous holidays for driving.

“If you live in Mississippi and you’re planning a road trip this weekend, you need to be extra cautious, both on and off the road,” she said.

According to two new reports released by SafeWise, Mississippi is the deadliest state for driving, with 23.1 car crash fatalities per 100,000 people in 2016. In addition, Mississippi ranked 10th for impaired driving deaths at 5.49 per 100,000.

“Let’s enjoy the last days of summer and do our part to keep the roads safer by focusing on the road — not our phones — and driving sober or getting a ride,” she said.

With all the additional traffic on the road, the Mississippi Department of Transportation suspended all interstate and four-lane highway work in anticipation of increased holiday travel.

MDOT crews and contractors put a halt on all road construction requiring lane closures Friday afternoon and will stay out of the way until Tuesday at 6 a.m. This will provide maximum travel capacity and minimal construction delays to motorists traveling throughout the state during the holiday.

“Even though no highway construction work will be occurring across the state, motorists should be aware that some lane closures will remain in place,” said MDOT Executive Director Melinda McGrath. “These lanes closures are there to protect motorists, and MDOT urges drivers to treat these areas as active work zones. While MDOT construction crews won’t be working, staff will be putting additional effort into monitoring the state’s highways to make sure everyone is able to enjoy this Labor Day safely.”

MDOT’s main goal is to keep the traveling public safe by monitoring the state’s highways to encourage safe travel.

“With Labor Day weekend being one of the busiest weekends on the road, we urge motorists to take extra precautions, so that everyone makes it safely to their destination,” McGrath said.

Highway traffic will increase on Labor Day weekend as many families from all over the state travel for the final event of the summer. MDOT offers these tips to help motorists stay safe this Labor Day weekend:

• Buckle up and make sure your passengers do as well.

• Make sure all children are in safety seats appropriate for their size.

• Don’t drink and drive. Always plan a designated driver when needed.

• Allow enough time for travel to avoid excessive speed and observe speed limits.

• Eliminate distracted driving activities such as eating or cell phone usage.

• Let someone know your destination, your route and when you expect to arrive.

“Stay safe and make memories while celebrating this weekend,” McGrath said.