Roanoke Police gear up for busy Memorial Day weekend

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ROANOKE (WSLS10)-- Memorial Day weekend is almost here and over the next few days, AAA expects more than 38 million people to travel 50 miles from home or further. Many of those vacationers will travel by car on a weekend that the National Safety Council reports is the second most dangerous holiday for traveling.

The Memorial Day travel period runs from Thursday to Monday and with more drivers expected on the roads, Roanoke City police are getting ready. The additional drivers not only means more traffic and slowdowns, but also leads to a higher chance for crashes. Last year 46,000 people were hurt and more than 400 were killed nationwide in Memorial Day weekend crashes.

Officers also see an increase in drinking and driving because of celebrations surrounding the holiday. If you're out on the roads over the next few days, expect to see a lot more officers.

"Our key thing is prevention," says Roanoke City traffic safety officer, Fatima Foster. "Preventing accidents and preventing citations. If citizens just wear their seat belts, slow down, obey the speed limit and plan-- give yourself enough room and time that if you see detours ahead, you don't get frustrated."

Drivers can expect everything from DUI Checkpoints to seat belt checks and officers running radar on what's expected to be the busiest Memorial Day travel since 2005.

Now that many schools are out for the summer, more young drivers will be on the roads this weekend too-- that's why officers say it's so important to cut down on the distractions while driving. When it comes to distracted driving, Officer Foster says teens aren't the only ones guilty of not paying attention behind the wheel.

"A lot of it is cell phones and people get distracted with their phones," she says. "For parents, they've got one hand in the back trying to tell their child to stop or calm down and that means they only have one hand on the steering wheel. We also see people using GPS. It's basically distracted driving that causes accidents."

Between 25 and 30 percent of all vehicle accidents can be attributed to distracted driving. It's important to remember how serious driving is, it's a task that requires our full attention all of the time.