As Memorial Day weekend approaches, there is expected to be an influx of events, as well as travelers heading out on the road.
To better prepare drivers for a safe and fun weekend, the Florida Highway Patrol is offering several tips for the road.
With a 20-cent decline in Florida’s average gas price compared to last year, this is seen as an incentive for more motorists on the road, according to the American Automobile Association (AAA).
The agency anticipates an uptick in the holiday’s traffic from last year – an estimated two million drivers statewide.
“Pasco [County] is a rapidly growing community,” said Sgt. Steve Gaskins, public affairs officer for the Florida Highway Patrol Tampa branch.
He noted that with the current traffic that already consumes Interstate 75 and U.S. 301, there will most likely be additional motorists coming into the county for the holiday.
Whether for an occasion or not, the No. 1 priority should always be wearing seatbelts before taking off, the sergeant mentioned.
“They’re the device that’s going to keep you safe, keep you inside the vehicle,” he added. “You have a lot of injuries that could be avoided if you put the seatbelts on.”
Multitasking while behind the wheel can be habitual for some drivers.
However, putting aside any distractions, especially those requiring the use of hands – such as a phone or food – is the best course of action, Gaskins recommended.
He also stated that while others in the vehicle may be preoccupied, the driver’s task should be solely focused on the road.
And, provided that there are other occupants with valid driver’s licenses in the vehicle, it is wise to assign rotating drivers when taking lengthy road trips.
This helps to lessen the risk of falling asleep behind the wheel, Gaskin reasoned.
In addition, those who are the single designated driver on a long trip should consider taking frequent pit-stops to rest and replenish themselves.
The sergeant also noted that designated drivers should also be assigned to those who maybe intoxicated. If that individual cannot be accompanied by someone sober to drive, taking a driving service such as Uber or Lyft should be planned ahead of time.
Gaskin also emphasized that “a designated driver is the one who drinks nothing – not the least.”
With road rage as a reoccurring issue, the sergeant encourages motorists to exercise patience and prepare for a busier than usual wait time.
“If you see someone driving aggressively, back off – give them space,” he advised, also discouraging shouting or using obscene hand gestures.
One prevention method is for motorists to pre-plan their schedule, giving themselves extra leeway to reach their destination on time.
This lessens the need to race on the road and lowers anxiety, Gaskin said.
The sergeant assures that State Troopers will be working around the clock for the holiday as a DUI squad, but hopes that citations and arrests will not be an issue.
To report accidents or erratic behavior on the road, motorists are encouraged to dial *347 (FHP).
For additional tips or updates, those on Twitter can follow the Florida Highway Patrol at: @FLHSMV, or visit its website at FLHSMV.gov.
Published May 22, 2019