Many Missourians are beginning their Thanksgiving Day weekend, and the Highway Patrol is starting to establish its presence for the weekend. Patrol Lt. John Hotz says they will increase their visibility for the weekend with hopes that the more patrol cars travelers see, the safer they will drive among the increased holiday traffic.

“We know that Wednesday starting at 5:00 or 6:00, when everybody gets off work; typically that’s when people travel to their destinations. Then they’ll spend the next few days there and then return back on Sunday evening. So those are going to be times we’ll have a lot of troopers out there… enforcing traffic laws and also helping those that may become stranded or have other problems,” Hotz said.

As far as enforcement goes, Hotz says the Patrol will be stressing speeding and seat belt laws and DUI enforcement. He says last year, six people were killed and 437 were injured in car accidents over the Thanksgiving weekend in Missouri. But he says those numbers aren’t too bad, historically.

“We’ve had a lot of success in the past few years with our 10 and 15 mile trooper operations where we have saturated the interstate highways throughout the state. We will continue to have a presence on the interstates but we’re also going to try to spread that out to some of the busier U.S. and secondary highways… Hopefully we can spread that fatality reduction and overall crash reduction to those other corridors as well and further reduce the number of fatalities we see,” Hotz said.

Hotz says heavier traffic than usual should be no surprise to holiday travelers, so they need to include it in their plans.

“Allow yourself extra time. Just have the mindset that it may take you a little bit longer to get there. It’s better to get there in a little bit more time than to not get there at all,” Hotz said.

Hotz says so far this year traffic fatalities are down 6 percent, and this could be the fourth year in a row that traffic deaths decrease in Missouri.

AUDIO: Ryan Famuliner reports [1 min MP3]