SMITHFIELD, R.I. (WPRI) — Many are already starting to travel ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, which is expected the third busiest season since 2000.

AAA Northeast predicts 54.6 million people will travel — 98% of pre-pandemic levels — with New Englanders to make up close to 2.5 million of those traveling.

Police chiefs from across the state joined the R.I. Department of Transportation (RIDOT), the Rhode Island Interscholastic League and some student-athletes to kick off the “Traffic Safety is a Team Sport” initiative.

The campaign is to encourage drivers to be safe on the roads to and from high school football games, family celebrations, and while Black Friday shopping.

“Members of law enforcement are patrolling our highways to provide accountability to those who endanger others. It takes all of us to spread the message and do our jobs to keep our roadways safe,” R.I. State Police Col. Darnell Weaver said.

In 2020, 333 people were killed nationwide during the Thanksgiving holiday, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

In recent years, three people have died in crashes on Rhode Island highways on the Thanksgiving holiday and this year the mission is for zero.

As of Tuesday, officials said 45 people have died in highway crashes in Rhode Island. RIDOT Director Peter Alviti said that while the numbers are improving, even one death is too many.

“As bad as that is, it’s better than last year and some of the previous years where we average about 56 fatalities by Thanksgiving,” he said.

Police will be out in full force starting Wednesday and will be looking for impaired drivers.

Watch the full presser below: