NEW YORK (WETM) – As the holidays approach and people flock to stores to do some last-minute shopping, New York State Police are reminding customers to drive and shop safely.

NYSP Superintendent Kevin Bruen said that thieves will take any opportunity to steal from unsuspecting victims, whether in a mall or a small business. Shoppers should “always be aware of their surroundings,” he said. “The commonsense steps are the ones that will protect you from becoming a victim.”

Police gave the following tips to those out at stores this winter:

  • Shop with a friend or in a group
  • If shopping alone, don’t be afraid to ask security to escort you to your car
  • Store purchases in the trunk of your vehicle, under a blanket or out of view
  • Do not leave valuables in your car
  • Avoid carrying large amounts of cash and keep your money and credit cards in a front pocket

And while you’re on your way to and from the stores, the NY Department of Motor Vehicles is urging drivers to use caution on wintery roads.

“There are simple steps a motorist can take,” said DMV Commissioner Mark Schroeder, “such as properly securing trees before transporting them, keeping free from distractions while driving, and having a plan to ensure they will never drive while impaired — that will help keep themselves and others safe on the road.”

The DMV said drivers should remove snow from all windows, mirrors, the roof and hood of a car before driving so it doesn’t slide onto the windshield.

For traffic updates, the DMV suggests checking 511NY by phone or online before traveling. The DMV and National Highway Safety Administration both have lists of winter driving tips to help prepare dirvers.

Drivers are also encouraged to use the Have a Plan app to help determine a safe way to get home when going out to celebrate the holidays. The app allows you to designate a driver, and call a cab or rideshare service.

As tens of millions of Americans transport real Christmas trees each year, NYSP are also reminding drivers to properly secure the trees to avoid debris and damage. Decorative lights are also illegal to put on your car.