Drivers asked to slow down this holiday

CONYERS — Between the long weekend in celebration of Memorial Day and high school graduations, the roads in Rockdale and Newton counties are likely to be very crowded.

The 78-hour Memorial Day holiday travel period begins this evening, and the Georgia State Patrol said Thursday police will be out in force and be on the lookout for impaired drivers and other traffic violations that could potentially cause a traffic crash. The holiday period begins at 6 p.m. today and ends Memorial Day.

The Newton County Sheriff's Office will also have concentrated patrols and stepped up enforcement to encourage drivers to be more cautious, according to NCSO Public Information Officer Deputy Courtney Morrison.

"Local law enforcement officers have zero tolerance for excessive speeding, impaired or aggressive driving and occupant protection violations. This is about awareness and safety. The goal is not to write tickets, it's public safety," Morrison said.

She also reminded motorists that the state's Super Speeder law went into effect Jan. 1.

"Anyone caught traveling 85 mph or over on the Interstate will pay an additional $200 fine on top of their citation," she said. "On county roads, anyone traveling 75 mph or more will also pay a hefty additional fee."

The Crash Reporting Unit at the Georgia Department of Transportation and the GSP predict 15 traffic deaths on Georgia roads during the holiday travel period this weekend. Officials are also predicting 1,972 traffic crashes and 696 injuries.

During the Memorial Day holiday weekend last year, Georgia recorded 16 traffic deaths and 2,430 crashes. The crashes resulted in 1,126 injuries.

Col. Bill Hitchens, Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Safety, reminded drivers to exercise caution this holiday weekend while they travel.

"Last year, 16 people died on our roads during the holiday weekend, including three deaths that were alcohol-related," Hitches said in a released statement. "Seven of the 14 people killed in car crashes were not wearing seat belts or other safety equipment. Two people were killed in motorcycle crashes."

High school graduation ceremonies planned for the weekend will add to the local traffic. With roadways expected to be packed, authorities stressed the need for defensive driving.

Newton County will graduate its seniors at 7 p.m. tonight inside the Church in the Now sanctuary, located on Iris Drive, west of the Salem Road exit of Interstate 20. Seniors from Eastside High School and Alcovy High School will graduate in separate ceremonies at 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., respectively, on Saturday at Church in the Now.

Newton Citizen News Editor Barbara Knowles contributed to this story.