HELENA — Local law enforcement, including the Lewis and Clark County Sheriff's Office and others, are preparing for a surge of travelers on the road for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
Thanksgiving is a time when many people will travel to visit family, and it's one of the busiest times of the year on area roads.
AAA data shows that nearly 55 million people are expected to travel for Thanksgiving, and 89 percent of those travelers will be going by car.
Overall, travel is up one and a half percent from last year, and very close to its pre-pandemic volume.
It's a busy time for law enforcement, and for years Lewis and Clark County Sheriff Leo Dutton has prepared for these busy days of travel around the holidays.
"We'll offer overtime to go out and patrol to make sure that people are obeying traffic laws with bad weather, roads, and now drinking and driving the propensity of being in a traffic accident greatly increases. We want people to be safe," said Dutton
Lewis and Clark County Sheriff's Office works with the Selective Traffic Enforcement Program, also known as STEP.
The program combines intensive enforcement of specific traffic safety laws with extensive communication, education, and outreach informing the public about the enforcement activity.
"One of the big concerns during this time is drinking and driving. I wish it wasn't, but people get the idea that they've only had four or five and that, you know, they're still in control. And the more they drink, the more they feel they're in control and they go drive. The biggest tragedy is people who don't make it home," said Dutton.
Dutton also says drivers should be aware of fatigue and encourages drivers to take breaks and rest if they are traveling long distances.
"Don't try to go to the max every time you're going to get tired. Your reaction time slows," said Dutton.
According to Montana AAA data, road traffic peaks the Wednesday afternoon before Thanksgiving.