WRAL Investigates

'Very difficult': Durham police want to make sure you make it to Thanksgiving safely

Posted November 23, 2021 4:08 p.m. EST
Updated November 24, 2021 7:55 a.m. EST

— The Durham Police Department is going to have more officers on the road Wednesday as part of their annual Thanksgiving speed limit enforcement operation.

Kristen Kozar, a 7-year veteran investigator with Durham's traffic and collision team, says this increase in patrolling is not about tricking people or playing hide-and-seek. The department's goal is to make sure drivers make it safely to their Thanksgiving meal, Kozar said.

Officers will be patrolling Interstate 85 in Durham County at around 9 a.m. Wednesday, which is one of the most dangerous areas in the county.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says in 2019 more than 9,000 died nationwide in crashes involving speeding. Kozar said 40% of fatal crashes in Durham have speeding as a factor.

"It’s important to us that people are safe on the roadways, especially during the holidays," she said. "Thanksgiving is one of the most traveled holidays throughout the year."

The American Automobile Association predicts around 1.5 million North Carolinians will travel for Thanksgiving this year, which is 13% more than last year. Adding onto that, last year was the deadliest year on North Carolina’s roadways since 2007, despite a significant drop in traffic volume because of the coronavirus pandemic.

With fewer vehicles on the road, some drivers took advantage of the ability to go faster.

Part of Kozar's job is reaching out to families to let them know someone died in a crash.

"Last year I did respond to a fatal collision on Christmas Eve," she said. "It's very difficult ... It's always hard to tell a loved one that their loved one has been killed in a motor vehicle collision. But even more so on the holidays, when they’re expecting to see that person."

Kozar asks that drivers be patient and take their time while traveling for Thanksgiving.

Officers are going to be looking out for careless and reckless driving, aggressive driving, seatbelt violations and more.

"We’re not stopping people for going one or two miles over the speed limit," she said. "These are egregious speeds. We’ve seen people traveling 100-plus."

The increased patrol is more than just handing out a ticket, according to Kozar. It's about saving lives.

The number of traffic citations issued by the Wake County Sheriff’s Office this fall has more than doubled from a year ago, while the Raleigh Police Department handed out 472 speeding tickets over the last month, more than three times the number issued during the same time last year.

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