Across Iowa, law enforcement agencies will be stepping up their patrols to keep drivers safe during the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
The Special Traffic Enforcement Program, which is an initiative of the Governor's Traffic Safety Bureau, will make sure that drivers are being responsible by wearing their seat belts and driving safely.
The event begins Monday and will run through Dec. 1.
"The No. 1 priority of this Special Traffic Enforcement Program is to save lives," Randy Hunefeld, sTEP coordinator with the GTSB, said in a statement.
Hunefeld said that there were nine fatal accidents during last year's Thanksgiving holiday, six of which involved people who weren't wearing their seat belts.
Law enforcement agencies across the state, including the Webster County Sheriff's Department, are participating in the sTEP.
Chief Deputy Rod Strait said it's important for law enforcement to have programs such as sTEP.
"It enhances the public's safety," Strait said. "It allows us to do a little more proactive enforcement."
Strait said there isn't anything specific deputies look for, but the goal is to keep drivers from getting into accidents.
"It's just a broad approach to observing traffic, just like what's done every day," he said. "This is extra enforcement."
Strait said special enforcement exercises such as sTEP can only be done when there are extra deputies available, because regular assignments take up most of the department's time.
"When they step forward in a program like this, their time is dedicated to enforcement," he said, adding the enforcement helps keep drivers safe while traveling on the roads.
"It really helps benefit the community," he said. "and it makes the roads a little bit safer."
According to a press release from the Iowa Department of Public Safety, as of Nov. 8, 263 people have died in traffic accidents this year. While that is actually 40 fewer than the same time frame last year, the press release revealed that in 39 percent of those deaths the person was not wearing a seat belt.
"These statistics clearly prove we must make seat belts a top priority," the press release stated. "More than 50 percent of all fatalities, not including motorcycles and pedestrians, are the result of drivers or occupants not taking the time to buckle up."