|COMMISSION NEWS RELEASE|
|Pa. Turnpike Reminds Drivers to Buckle Everyone up During Busiest Travel Holiday
Travelers advised to download free smartphone app to hear what's ahead on the road
|HARRISBURG, PA (11/21/2011)(readMedia)-- The five-day Thanksgiving period from Nov. 23-27 is the busiest travel holiday of the year on the Pennsylvania Turnpike system, and turnpike officials are joining with Pennsylvania State Police to persuade drivers to make sure that all occupants are suitably buckled up for every trip.
"Thanksgiving is the top family holiday during which we're all more likely to travel with loved ones, so it's imperative when hauling this priceless payload to check that everyone is buckled up, whether you're driving across town, across state or across country," said Pa. Turnpike CEO Roger Nutt. "As drivers, we're responsible for every passenger inside that vehicle, and with heavy traffic and harried motorists on the road, it's critical we take that responsibly to heart this Thanksgiving."
Officials expect more than 2.6 million vehicles on the Pennsylvania Turnpike – a 1 percent increase over Thanksgiving 2010. As a result, highway construction and maintenance work will be modified to allow full use of the roadway; all lanes will be available beginning at 3 p.m. on Nov. 22 until 6 a.m. on Nov. 29, except in case of emergencies. Some construction activity that does not impact lanes may continue behind barriers in limited areas, reducing shoulder widths.
The Pa. Turnpike's traffic engineers expects volumes will be heaviest Wednesday from 3 p.m. until 8 p.m. and Sunday from noon until 8 p.m. Motorists should be aware of the probability of slow-moving and periodic stopped traffic throughout the holiday, especially on Wednesday and Sunday. Turnpike maintenance crews, State Farm Safety Patrols, and the Pennsylvania State Police are increasing forces to assist stranded motorists, keep traffic moving and respond to emergencies.
The turnpike's state police troop reminds motorists that properly securing seatbelts for everyone inside a car or truck is more essential now with higher holiday traffic volumes and a rise in families traveling together.
"Seatbelts save more than 13,000 lives each year, and buckling up is the most effective thing you can do to protect yourself in a crash," said Cpl. Richard N. Dean of the State Police Troop T, the division in charge of Pennsylvania Turnpike patrols. "During the Thanksgiving period, Troop T patrols will be participating in a statewide Click It or Ticket campaign of heightened seatbelt-law enforcement."
Officials remind motorists that three turnpike travel plazas remain closed between Carlisle, Pa. and Somerset, Pa. The Plainfield Travel Plaza, for eastbound motorists, is seven miles west of the Carlisle Exit (No. 226); the Blue Mountain Travel Plaza, for westbound motorists, is about one mile east of the Blue Mountain Exit (No. 201); and the South Somerset Travel Plaza, for eastbound motorists, is about two miles east of the Somerset Exit (No. 110). The turnpike has seen a steep increase in out-of-gas vehicles in these areas, so motorists are reminded to plan refueling stops accordingly by using earlier travel plazas or fueling up at off-turnpike stations. The three plazas are being rebuilt as part of a nine-year project to modernize all travel facilities and are scheduled to reopen in May 2012.
Thanksgiving congestion is an ideal reason for turnpike customers to exploit the GPS technology inside their smartphones so they can see what's ahead on the turnpike. Drivers can steer clear of delays caused by holiday backups or accidents by downloading the free turnpike smartphone app, called TripTALK, available for Droid and iPhone. Unveiled in September, TripTALK has already been downloaded by more than 10,000 users. The State-Farm sponsored app is available in the Android Market, the Apple Store or at www.paturnpike.com/triptalk.
"TripTALK is a first-of-its-kind app that lets turnpike customers be in the know while they're on the go. It's eyes free and hands free -- just launch it before you put the car in drive, and there's no need to touch or look at your device again," said CEO Nutt. "If there's something causing stoppages or delays in your path, the app will automatically read aloud an audio alert so you can react accordingly."
Pa. Turnpike travelers can also get real-time roadway information via the Turnpike Roadway Information Program, or "TRIP," by visiting www.paturnpike.com or calling 1-866-976-TRIP (8747). Officials advise motorists headed for the turnpike to check out conditions before they leave; the commission reminds drivers to avoid unnecessary distractions behind the wheel.
In case of an accident, breakdown or other emergency, motorists can summon assistance by calling *11 or 1-800-332-3880 or deploying one of the yellow callboxes on the shoulder. Be prepared to give the milepost location and direction of travel, and move the vehicles involved out of active travel lanes if possible.
As an extra precaution, over-dimensional commercial vehicles (trucks exceeding 8-1/2 feet wide, 85 feet long, 13-1/2 feet high or 100,000 pounds gross weight) will be restricted from traveling the Pennsylvania Turnpike beginning sundown Nov. 22 to sunrise Nov. 28.