Officials urge drivers to be safe

Photo by Howard Reed

Photo by Howard Reed

COVINGTON -- The Georgia State Patrol and local law enforcement agencies are reminding drivers to buckle-up this coming weekend and to plan their travel activities with safety in mind.

The 78-hour July Fourth holiday travel period begins at 6 p.m. today and ends at midnight Tuesday, July 5.

Holiday patrols will concentrate on impaired drivers, speeders and people not using safety belts.

Last year, the Georgia Department of Transportation's Crash Reporting Unit counted 1,829 traffic crashes, 834 injuries and 11 traffic deaths during the July 4 holiday travel period. The Georgia State Patrol investigated 300 of the traffic crashes that covered a Thursday evening through Sunday night time period. Troopers reported nine traffic deaths and 209 injuries in the crashes they investigated. Two of the fatal crashes were alcohol-related and three of the fatal crash victims in passenger cars or pickup trucks were not wearing a safety belt.

Operation Zero Tolerance, Georgia's high-visibility impaired driving enforcement program, is also continuing this week across Georgia in conjunction with the nationwide mobilization on drunk driving. Troopers and MCCD officers are joining Covington and Conyers police officers and Rockdale County and Newton County sheriffs' deputies in a concentrated effort to keep roads as safe as possible by removing impaired drivers from behind the wheel before they are involved in a traffic crash.

Expect to see enforcement personnel conducting safety checks and concentrated patrols across the state now through the end of the holiday period.

The July 4 holiday weekend is also an Operation C.A.R.E. weekend. Operation C.A.R.E., or Combined Accident Reduction Effort, encourages safe driving through high visibility enforcement of traffic laws and public education efforts. The program among state highway patrols and state police agencies is now in its 34th year and is sponsored by the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

Col. Bill Hitchens, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Safety, also reminds drivers who will be transporting children this weekend to make sure everyone is properly restrained. He noted that a change in Georgia's booster seat law is effective today, and requires children under the age of 8 to be secured in an approved car seat or booster seat. More information on the booster seat law is available at www.gahighwaysafety.org.

The highest number of July Fourth holiday traffic fatalities occurred in 1972 when 34 people were killed in traffic crashes. The lowest occurred in 1962 and 1984 when two people were killed.