Thanksgiving is Thursday, school is out and motorists across Texas will be on the move during the long holiday weekend.

AAA Texas reports that about 3.6 million people will be driving 50 miles or more to their Thanksgiving destinations this year.

Meanwhile, the Texas DPS has announced that Highway Patrol troopers will step up enforcement on the roads during the holiday. Troopers will be looking for people not wearing seat belts, driving while intoxicated, speeding and failing to move over and slow down among other traffic violations.

We don’t want any of our readers to be pulled over for foolish traffic violations. But it would be far worse if any of our readers (or their loved ones) were injured or killed because of someone else’s careless behavior behind the wheel.

Among the major contributing factors to fatal traffic accidents during the holidays are intoxicated driving, excessive speed and distracted driving.

Quite simply, don’t drink and drive. Slow down. And, of course, never text and drive.

Distracted driving is a major contributing factor in the high number of traffic fatalities despite numerous public-information campaigns.

Traffic safety experts explain that distracted driving comes in many forms, the most common being texting and driving, but even hands-free devices contribute to traffic accidents, according to safety experts.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has said devices intended to keep drivers less distracted and more focused simply don’t get the job done.

Unsafe mental distractions can persist for almost half a minute after dialing, changing music or sending a text using voice commands, according to the foundation.

AAA has said, “hands-free technologies can mentally distract drivers even if their eyes are on the road and their hands are on the wheel.”

Some in-car systems may be slightly less distracting than others, but all hands-free car systems and cell phone apps have varying degrees of distraction and could compromise a driver’s ability to focus.

Hands-free does not mean distraction-free because the mental distraction can be the most dangerous diversion of all when driving.

Studies have indicated unsafe levels of mental distraction can last for as long as 27 seconds after completing a distracting task in the worst-performing systems studied, according to one study.

At 25 miles per hour, researchers said drivers traveled the length of nearly three football fields during the same amount of time. When using the least distracting systems, drivers can remain impaired for more than 15 seconds after completing a task, a study indicated.

“Drivers should use caution while using voice-activated systems, even at seemingly safe moments when there is a lull in traffic or the car is stopped at an intersection,” said Marshall Doney, AAA’s president and CEO. “The reality is that mental distractions persist and can affect driver attention even after the light turns green.

“The massive increase in voice-activated technologies in cars and phones represents a growing safety problem for drivers. We are concerned that these new systems may invite driver distraction, even as overwhelming scientific evidence concludes that hands-free is not risk free.”

As you travel, put down the phone, slow down and stay safe.

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