Fatal crashes in Nebraska up 20% this year; officials urge caution amid busy travel week

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) — As thousands of Nebraskans hit the road this week for Thanksgiving, officials are imploring people to be careful behind the wheel.

There have been 233 fatal crashes this year as of Nov. 18, about a 20% increase compared to last year, according to a report from Nebraska Public Media.

In the state’s urban areas, there were 84 fatalities this year, up from an average of 58 in the five previous years.

Mike Thorson, a sergeant with the Nebraska State Patrol, said the increase can be traced to a handful of multi-fatality crashes caused by speeding or driving while impaired, like the crash that killed six people in October.

“It was a one-vehicle crash that had six people in it, that resulted in six fatalities,” Thorson said. “That’s just one incident that resulted in multiple deaths, and we’ve had several of those that are leading to the increase we’re seeing.”

Across the state, local law enforcement agencies are gearing up for the holiday travel season.

The Lincoln Police Department is participating in the annual “Click It or Ticket” campaign, which begins Wednesday and runs through Sunday.

Officers will be concentrating on areas with high injury crash rates and making sure drivers wear their seat belts and properly secure child restraints.

Their goal is to raise the number of people using seat belts after a survey found that Lincoln’s seat belt usage is only 77%.

Several local sheriff’s offices, including Lancaster County, are also holding campaigns in the next few weeks to encourage Nebraskans to buckle up.

The state patrol is also asking drivers to slow down and said it’s issued a large number of traffic citations to drivers going well over 100 mph.

This past summer and fall, troopers cracked down on speeding in construction zones, focusing on areas like the one on Highway 2 during the construction of the South Beltway.

The patrol said the project kept crashes and fatalities down in those areas, so troopers plan to patrol some specific areas during the holiday season.

“Interstate 80, obviously every year during the highly traveled holiday times, is an area we try to target,” Thorson said. “Really, it just boils down to each individual taking responsibility for themselves. Buckling up is a big one, watching the speed limit, watching your following distance, and at the end of the day you just have to be a responsible driver.”

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