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Enforcement ups patrols for holiday

Photo by Howard Reed

Photo by Howard Reed

COVINGTON -- Area law enforcement officials won't be taking it easy over the Memorial Day holiday. In fact, they plan to work harder.

Troopers with the Georgia State Patrol, deputies with the Rockdale County and Newton County sheriff's offices and officers with the Conyers and Covington police departments will be charged with making sure motorists keep within the posted speed limits, do not drink and drive and observe all safety precautions.

"Plan carefully, use caution and buckle up" are the recommendations issued by Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Safety Col. Bill Hitchens for the 78-hour Memorial Day holiday weekend beginning Friday at 6 p.m. and ending at midnight Monday.

"We anticipate a busy weekend on Georgia roads," he said, reminding residents that factors such as graduation ceremonies, festivals and vacation travel will add to normal weekend traffic.

During the 2010 Memorial Day weekend, the Georgia Department of Transportation's Crash Reporting Unit reported 2,143 traffic crashes across the state that resulted in 945 injuries and five fatalities, the lowest number of Memorial Day traffic deaths recorded since statistics were first kept in 1969.

Troopers, as well as local law enforcement, will be patrolling both the interstates and secondary roads.

"Last year, there were no interstate fatalities recorded ... but two of the deaths were on state highways and three were on county roads or city streets," Hitchens said.

The Memorial Day holiday weekend is also an Operation C.A.R.E. holiday period. Operation C.A.R.E., or Combined Accident Reduction Effort, is a program sponsored by the International Association of Police Chiefs for state law enforcement agencies across the U.S. and Canada to reduce traffic deaths through high visibility enforcement and education. The program is now in its 34th year.

Operation Click It or Ticket is also under way across the nation. Law enforcement officers are working together by conducting road checks and concentrated patrols to enforce occupant protection laws.

The GSP and other local agencies is calling on motorists to plan their trips carefully and allow for frequent stops on extended trips.

"Make sure you are alert behind the wheel at all times and immediately make a rest stop the moment you begin to feel drowsy," Hitchens advised. "We want everyone to enjoy the holiday weekend and remember its purpose, but please take the necessary precautions to avoid serious injury or death while you travel. Always buckle up, remember to properly restrain children, obey the posted speed limit and don't drive if you have consumed alcohol."

Hitchens also urged motorists to be considerate of other drivers and to exercise patience behind the wheel.

The highest number of traffic deaths on Georgia roads during the Memorial Day holiday weekend occurred in 2005 when 32 people were killed in holiday crashes.