Nebraska Fatalities Up as Holiday Travel Nears

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Statistics from the last 15 years indicate Nebraska accident rates are steadily decreasing, but this has been a deadly year for drivers, and with the holidays around the corner, more people will soon be hitting the road.

Though it's been a mild winter so far, the weather can be one of the most challenging parts of holiday travel.

"Make sure you're checking the weather," recommends Sgt. Ephraim Valenzuela of the Buffalo County Sheriff's Department. "As you know, in the state of Nebraska it can change in a minute."

While total crashes are trending down in Nebraska, fatalities are up nearly 15% this year.

Officials at the Nebraska Safety Center say most deadly accidents can be avoided with common sense - like wearing your seatbelt and making sure kids are properly restrained.

"The numbers are higher of people who do [wear their seatbelts], but it's still not where it should be," says Transportation Safety Manager Cindy Stone. "People are still being ejected out of the vehicle, then the vehicle is rolling over on them causing the fatality."

Stone also recommends taking breaks on long trips to stay fully alert and putting the phone away in the car. She says texting and driving is a major cause of fatal accidents.

Officials say it's also important to make sure the driver is the one who should be driving.

"We're not telling people they can't go out and enjoy the holiday season, definitely they can, but if they are going to be drinking any type of alcohol, please, please use a designated driver or call a cab," says Valenzuela.

If you don't the odds are that someone will be waiting. Many agencies like Buffalo County take part in special enforcement times around the holidays with extra deputies on patrol.

"Bringing extra people out not only helps us to maybe find those violations, but with the general public knowing that we're out it's also a type of deterrent," says Valenzuela.

"People know that they're going to be out there, out and about, and they're more likely to use their seatbelts during that time," says Stone.

Officials say they just want everyone to reach their holiday destination safely.