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Last holiday season was deadly on the roads, use caution this year, says state Department of Public Safety

The Department of Public Safety (DPS) is stressing safe driving during the Christmas holiday following a deadly 2007 when 11 motorists were killed between Dec. 21- 25. Of those killed, six were not wearing seat belts and three were killed in alcohol-related crashes.

The Christmas holiday will be accompanied by enhanced, statewide DWI patrols continuing throughout December. During 2005-2007 over the holiday period more than 1,700 motorists were arrested for DWI.

The 11 deaths in 2007 was an alarming jump in deaths for the holiday -- there was only one death over the Christmas travel period in the previous two years, 2005-2006.

"The holidays are a time to spend with friends and family, and the first step to ensuring a happy holiday is to travel safely," says Cheri Marti, director of DPS Office of Traffic Safety. "Be patient behind the wheel, travel at safe speeds and increase your distance between vehicles ahead of you."

DPS recommends the following for safe winter driving:

· Give yourself plenty of travel time -- and always use seat belts.

· Clear snow and ice from vehicle windows, hood, headlights, brake lights and directional signals.

· Headlights must be turned on when it is snowing or sleeting.

· Adjust speed to road and weather conditions. Lower speeds minimize crashes.

· Keep a safe stopping distance between vehicles, and leave extra room between your vehicle and snow plows or other removal equipment.

· Accelerate and decelerate slowly on icy or snow-covered roads to retain traction and avoid skids.

· Build momentum before reaching a hill and don't stop while traveling uphill. Reduce speed going downhill.

· Know your brakes. Keep the heel of your foot on the floor and use the ball of the foot to apply firm, steady pressure on the brake pedal.

· Take note of mileposts, exit numbers or crossroads in case you are involved in a crash or in need of help on the road so responders can easily locate your vehicle.

For road condition, weather advisories and other traffic information, visit or dial 511.