Troopers out in force patrolling highways this weekend

Melissa Crowe By Melissa Crowe

Nov. 20, 2012 at 5:20 a.m.

Law enforcement will to be out in full-force this holiday weekend as more Texans are expected to travel compared to last year.

Because of the increase in traffic, Texas Department of Public Safety Senior Trooper Gerald Bryant urged drivers to use more caution and minimize all road distractions.

"We definitely want everyone to make their destinations," Bryant said. "Avoid distractions when you're driving. Just pay attention."

Echoing that message, Texas Department of Transportation released a report showing 848 serious injuries and 26 deaths from traffic crashes statewide during the holiday in 2011.

Although Bryant was unsure if it is a "no refusal" weekend, he said state troopers "will be out in full force."

During the 2011 Thanksgiving weekend, DPS troopers made 393 drunken driving arrest, issued more than 7,400 speeding citations and more than 900 seat belt citations, according to a DPS news release.

Bryant expects Wednesday and Sunday will see the heaviest travel.

"We are expecting more people to be out simply because the price of gas is pretty low right now," Bryant said.

The statewide average price for a gallon of regular unleaded in Texas is now $3.16, according to AAA Texas. The national average is $3.41.

AAA Texas' annual Thanksgiving travel forecast predicts 3.3 million Texans will travel at least 50 miles from their home during the weekend, an increase of 1.6 percent over last year.

Doug Shupe, the AAA Texas/New Mexico representative, said traveling by car or truck "is still the most economical and convenient way for many families to reach their holiday destinations."

The average round-trip for Texas travelers is 714 miles during the holiday weekend, according to Texas AAA, with the average weekend costing $802 for traveling, dining and shopping.

Economists say the small increase of travelers is a result of people feeling more confident today than one year ago and an economy that's holding steady, according to the travel group.

AAA Texas Vice President Rhonda Wilson said the travel forecast shows "the resiliency of Texans" to manage their budgets in order to be with one another for Thanksgiving.

"And those who will drive to their destinations this year will be especially thankful for the recent trend of falling gas prices," she said in the news release.



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