Monday, December 22, 1997

Safety a concern for the holidays

Published in the Columbia Missourian

As travelers hit the highways, rails, and air routes nationwide, area authorities are holding their collective breath, worried for the public safety.

The Columbia Police Department and the Missouri State Highway Patrol want to help you and your loved ones stay safe this holiday season.

One problem travelers face is that road rage is on the rise, said Sgt. Chris Harris of the patrol.

"People are tense and trying to get where they're going," Harris said.

Watch for other unsafe drivers and stay calm.

In addition to avoiding theft and accidents while traveling, you should be aware of your home's safety.

Every year some people return home from the holidays to find their homes have been broken into. This can be prevented with simple precautions.

Prepare your home for safety before you leave:
Stop mail and newspaper delivery.
Leave shades and blinds in normal position.
Put lights and/or radio on automatic timers.
Ask a neighbor to keep your residence maintained if need be (decorative lights, snow removal, etc.)
Leave a key with a trusted friend or neighbor in case of an emergency or to check on the residence.
Call the Columbia Police Department's non-emergency number, 442-6131, and ask for a patrol to drive by your home. They will ask you for the dates you will be gone and for the names of anyone who has a key to your home.
Double-check to make sure all windows and doors are locked.
Make a record of your passport, credit cards, and traveler's check numbers, as well as plane, train or bus ticket numbers. Give a copy of the list to a family member or friend for safekeeping. Keep a copy in a safe place among your traveling possessions in case the items are lost or stolen.

On the road:
Carry little cash. Use travelers' checks or credit cards whenever possible.
If you are driving, plan your route carefully. Travel on main roads and use maps. Have your car serviced before you leave.
If you are stopping overnight, remove luggage and other valuables from your car.
When stopping en route, conceal obvious valuables from sight, preferably in the trunk.
If your car breaks down, turn on the flashers and open the hood or tie a white cloth to the antenna. If anyone stops to offer help, ask them to call the police.
When traveling to visit friends or relatives, always phone before departure to give an approximate arrival time at your destination.

Phone numbers for road conditions in Missouri and neighboring states
Missouri: 1-800-222-6400
Illinois: 1-800-452-4368
Kentucky: 1-800-459-7623
Tennessee: 1-800-342-3258
Arkansas: 1-501-569-2374
Oklahoma: 1-405-425-2385
Kansas: Highways: 1-800-585-7623; Turnpike Authority 1-913-266-4135
Nebraska: 1-402-471-4533
Iowa: 1-800-288-1047

Sources: Columbia Police Department Crime Prevention Unit, Missouri State Highway Patrol and others