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(Raleigh) - With a busy Christmas and New Year holiday travel week being predicted, the N. C. Department of Transportation is suspending most road and lane closures on interstates, U. S. and N.C. routes across the state from Friday, December 21st, to Wednesday, January 2nd.

There will be some exceptions where construction conditions make it unsafe to open all lanes, such as where a bridge is being replaced, or lanes are being constructed or rebuilt. Drivers need to be alert for any lane closure signs.

To help make trips safer and cut back on distracted driving, NCDOT and GEICO are teaming up to provide “Safe Phone Zones” throughout the holiday and into 2019. While GEICO sponsors the initiative, NCDOT has designed all 58 rest areas across the state as Safe Phone Zones to encourage drivers to take advantage of their use.

These facilities are strategically located along major highways, so accessing them is very easy to allow drivers to get out of traffic and safely use their smartphones and tablets to access information or even to send text messages, which is illegal while driving in North Carolina and 46 other states. So, the highway rest areas not only serve as a place to rest and rejuvenate, but also to use cellphones. Even a glance at a cellphone while driving is considered distracted driving and could easily lead to a tragic crash.

Travelers can also make their trip better by checking on the status of their planned route in advance by going to www.DriveNC.gov to see if it will be clear. Once underway, a stop at one of the Safe Phone Zone locations provides a chance to check the route again to see if anything has changed.

www.DriveNC.gov provides road condition updates by route, county or region, updated 24 hours a day with possible changes, including the travel impact of a crash or bad weather. In addition to checking the DriveNC website, another option to get updates during daytime hours is to call 511 will get live operators to provide travel assistance.

Here are some additional tips for safe driving during the holiday season:

• Leave early to get a head start, and travel at non-peak hours if possible, as the weekends before Christmas and New Year’s Day will be the heaviest traffic congestion periods for most of the state, especially on interstates such as I-95, I-77, I-85, I-40 and I-26.

• Use alternative routes if possible to avoid traffic congestion;

• Allow extra time for your trip, regardless of the route you choose;

• To avoid drowsy driving, travel at times you are normally awake and take frequent breaks, taking advantage of the state’s rest areas;

• Pay attention to your surroundings and other vehicles nearby, and avoid distracted driving; and

• All drivers and passengers must be wearing their seat belts, it’s the law.

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