Afternoon traffic on the Capital Beltway near West University Boulevard… (Mark Gail/THE WASHINGTON…)

As a projected 959,900 people from the Washington region prepare to drive somewhere for the long Thanksgiving weekend, law enforcement and safety officials are busy urging people to buckle seat belts and to use a designated driver if drinking is involved.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s annual data dump of roadway fatalities this month shows why.

Though seat belt use has increased dramatically in recent years, more than half the people killed in accidents in 2012 were not wearing them. And almost one-third of the 33,561 fatal crashes last year involved alcohol. Drinking was found to be a factor in 211 Virginia deaths, 160 Maryland deaths and four District deaths.

“The risk of a serious or deadly crash increases with the number of cars on the road, and the long Thanksgiving weekend is one of the busiest travel times of the year,” said Maryland Vehicle Administration head John Kuo. “Your seat belt can save your life. Please buckle up and make sure that everyone else in your car is buckled up, as well.”

Col. Marcus L. Brown of the Maryland State Police, said “I urge everyone traveling this holiday season not to drink and drive, to obey the speed limits, and always buckle up so we can all give thanks this holiday season and enjoy the time with loved ones.”