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Georgia troopers urge motorists to buckle up over holiday

ATLANTA -- With a projected increase in motor vehicle travel over the coming Thanksgiving holiday travel period, the Georgia State Patrol is reminding drivers to make sure safety is a priority on every trip. The Thanksgiving holiday period is one of the heaviest-traveled in Georgia each year and this year will cover 102 hours beginning Wednesday at 6 p.m. and ending Sunday night, Nov. 27.

During the 2010 Thanksgiving period, the Georgia State Patrol investigated 437 traffic crashes that resulted in 397 injuries and eight fatalities. Statewide last Thanksgiving weekend, there were 2,571 crashes, 1,099 injuries and 13 traffic deaths, according to crash statistics from the Crash Reporting Unit at the Georgia Department of Transportation.

The highest number of traffic deaths ever recorded for the Thanksgiving holiday period was 43 in 1969 and the lowest was four in 1949.

Col. Mark McDonough, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Safety, said impaired drivers, drivers traveling too fast for conditions, and the lack of safety belt use are the leading contributing factors to fatal crashes.

"Reducing the number of crashes involving speed, alcohol and seat belt violations will save many lives each year in Georgia," he said. "That's why we patrol -- to save lives."

McDonough said Georgia State troopers will be patrolling throughout the holiday period. The troopers will join with sheriffs' deputies and police officers in a concentrated enforcement effort as part of Operation Click It or Ticket, Georgia's high-visibility safety belt enforcement program coordinated by the Governor's Office of Highway Safety.

Troopers will be enforcing Georgia's primary safety belt law that now includes pick-up trucks.

"Please make sure everyone is properly restrained, especially children," Colonel McDonough said. "No one knows when a traffic crash will occur, but studies have repeatedly shown that being properly restrained in a motor vehicle is the best protection to avoid serious injury or death when a crash occurs."

The Georgia State Patrol reminds drivers who will be on the road during the holiday period to also plan trips carefully by allowing ample time to reach your destination, plan for rest stops along the way, obey the posted speed limit, and don't drive if you have consumed alcoholic beverages.

The Thanksgiving 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 of the International Association of Chiefs of Police designed to unite the law enforcement community across the United States and Canada in a campaign to reduce traffic deaths through high visibility enforcement and education.