Have a happy — and safe — Thanksgiving

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By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times

Whether you’re hitting the road to be home with family, or hosting the brood at your place, there’s a few simple tips from local and state experts to make your travel and holiday safer and happier.

First, of course, I’ll throw in one of my own: don’t talk about politics.

No, seriously. Don’t.

I’d suggest other, less explosive topics such as “how about those Eagles?” “aren’t those mummers something?”  or “So, when can I expect grandkids?” hours and hours before anything pertaining to Washington D.C. or Harrisburg comes up.

Unless of course, you happen to be an elected official, which makes political discussions inevitable. Keep in mind, any relatives criticizing you aren’t paid protestors, they’re just angry at you. Instead of launching angry counterattacks against your grandmother from your overfunded PAC, I’d suggest a second helping of turkey to mellow you out.

Still, in all seriousness, Thanksgiving can be a hazardous time of year, from busy highways with lost, or worse, impaired, drivers to cooking accidents that look like an outtake from “Mythbusters.”

Area experts say a little common sense can go a long way to keeping things safe for the holiday.

If you are traveling by roadway during the holiday weekend — MidAtlantic AAA says some 530,000 folks in the Delaware Valley will travel 50 miles by car for the holiday — keep in mind State Police and local police will have stepped up patrols and checkpoints to look for impaired drivers.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), state and local police, Buckle Up PA, AAA Mid-Atlantic, and regional safety partners held an event Monday at Temple University’s Ambler Campus in Montgomery County to outline regional enforcement efforts during the “Operation Safe Holiday” mobilization and to encourage safe driving through the holiday season.

Police discussed the use of sobriety checkpoints, roving patrols and regular traffic safety patrols to target motorists who are driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Pennsylvania State Police and hundreds of municipal police departments statewide will participate in the “Operation Safe Holiday” campaign this year to increase traffic safety enforcement through the New Year’s holiday. 

PennDOT data indicates that the winter holiday season continues to be the leading time period for traffic crashes. In 2016, there were 8,608 crashes and 79 fatalities statewide during the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year travel periods. Of those, 1,072 crashes and 27 fatalities were impaired-driving related.

PennDOT encourages motorists to always plan ahead by either designating a sober driver or arranging for alternate transportation.

Motorists can check conditions on more than 40,000 roadway miles, including color-coded winter conditions on 2,900 miles, by visiting www.511PA.com. 511PA, which is free and available 24 hours a day, provides traffic delay warnings, weather forecasts, traffic speed information, and access to more than 850 traffic cameras.

Gov. Tom Wolf and his administration also reminds state residents to use seat belts this holiday season.

Ahead of the holiday travel period and nationwide Click It or Ticket “Operation Safe Holiday” enforcement effort, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) Secretary Leslie S. Richards, Pennsylvania State Police Commissioner Tyree C. Blocker, and the Penn State Health’s Life Lion Critical Care Transport Unit today urged the public to secure all vehicle passengers properly, and designate a sober driver during holiday parties through the new year.

“The holidays can yield some of the highest impaired driving-related crash totals Pennsylvania has,” PennDOT Secretary Leslie S. Richards said. “PennDOT continues to partner with our brothers and sisters in law enforcement to educate the public on safe holiday travel and crash reduction. We encourage all drivers to do the right thing to protect themselves and their families.” 

And while the highway and crowded airports can be frustrating and dangerous, your kitchen can be a hazard as well — and we don’t just mean by a sudden and unexpected attack by your Kenmore, or a deathmatch with Aunt Sue over how much nutmeg to put in the pumpkin pie — the surprisingly high number of kitchen fires on Thanksgiving every year.

State Fire Commissioner Tim Solobay is reminding Pennsylvanians to follow safe cooking recommendations when celebrating Thanksgiving this week with family and friends.

“The holidays typically bring a lot of happy times with family and friends,” Solobay said. “But failing to follow some basic safety rules can turn what should be happy memories into memories filled with sadness and regret.”

According to the National Fire Protection Association, fire companies in the United States responded to an estimated 1,760 home cooking fires on Thanksgiving 2015 – the highest number of such fires on any one day in the year. Unattended cooking was the leading contributing factor in home cooking fires and deaths.

Solobay shared the following reminders for safe holiday cooking:

• Create a three-foot child-free zone around hot spots like stoves, turkey fryers and ovens using masking or painters tape on the floor. Get the kids involved in helping you tape off their “no-go zone,” then find kid-friendly ways they can help in the kitchen. Keep pets away from hot spots, too.

• Turn pot handles toward the back of the stove so they’re not accidentally knocked off the stove.

• Don’t let electric cords from potentially hot items such as coffee makers or toasters hang over the edge of the counter where a child or pet could pull on them.

•  Wear short sleeves, or roll up long sleeves so they won’t hang down and brush against burners.

•  Keep an eye on pots and pans; turn off all burners if you need to leave the kitchen.

•  Don’t ever use a turkey fryer on a wooden deck or in a garage; keep it away from your home and buildings.

•  Be careful not to overfill your turkey fryer, and make sure your turkey is completely thawed and dry before slowly lowering it into the fryer. Dropping it in quickly can cause oil to splash out, which could catch on fire.

•  Check your kitchen fire extinguisher to make sure it’s properly charged and ready for use. Purchase a fire extinguisher to make sure it’s properly charged and ready for use. Purchase a fire extinguisher if you don’t have one.

•  Test your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors this week to ensure they’re in working order when your friends and family arrive.

“If you plan to have guests staying with you over the holidays, be sure to review your home fire escape plan with them,” Solobay said. “Get it out of the way as soon as they arrive, so you can turn your attention to making those happy holiday memories.”

Stay safe, be smart and from all of us at The Times, have a Happy Thanksgiving!

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