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GSP warns motorists to obey all traffic laws over holiday period

COVINGTON -- The Georgia State Patrol and local law enforcement agencies are making final preparations for traffic enforcement over the Thanksgiving holiday travel period that begins this evening. Traffic is expected to be heavy on Georgia roads throughout the holiday weekend.

In addition to customary patrols, Georgia State Patrol Col. Mark McDonough and Highway Safety Director Harris Blackwood travelled to five Georgia cities throughout the state to launch "Operation: Safe Holidays" in the hope of stemming the tide of an expected increase in Georgia traffic fatalities this year, which has seen the first increase in more than five years.

"Already, we have surpassed where we were this time last year and we have not even entered the holiday season, our busiest traffic period of the year," said Blackwood. "We have to do everything in our power to hold that line and do everything in our power to make motorists pay attention to the deadly consequences of distracted and impaired driving and buckle up every trip, every time, from now until the end of the year. We simply cannot afford to lose another life on Georgia's roads this year."

Between Jan. 1 and Nov. 15, 1,013 people died in motor vehicle crashes in Georgia. The rate of traffic fatalities this year is in line to exceed that of 2011, when 1,226 people died in motor vehicle crashes.

McDonough said GSP troopers will patrol during the holiday period in an effort to keep the number of traffic crashes and fatalities as low as possible.

"We know from past experience that speed, alcohol and failing to use seat belts are the primary contributing factors in fatal crashes," he said. "By conducting concentrated patrols or holding road checks across the state, troopers, deputies and officers can intercept violators before they are involved in a serious traffic crash."

The holiday period begins at 6 p.m. today and ends at midnight Sunday. Last year during a similar 102-hour period, the GSP investigated 466 traffic crashes across the state that resulted in 303 injuries and 13 fatalities. McDonough said that of the 11 fatal crashes investigated by state troopers, four of the crashes involved motorcycles and two of the traffic victims were pedestrians. Four of the fatalities traveling in passenger cars and trucks were not restrained and two fatalities involved alcohol.

"Enjoy the holiday period, but also know that if you are driving under the influence, you will go to jail and your vehicle will be impounded on the spot," McDonough warned.

Operation Click it or Ticket will also be in effect, which concentrates on seat belt violations and child safety seat violations.

"Seat belts save lives and in a crash keep you from being thrown from the vehicle," McDonough said. "Please take the time to put your seat belt on and be sure that children are properly restrained, as well."

Also, Operation C.A.R.E. or Combined Accident Reduction Effort, sponsored by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, will be in effect, which promotes safe driving on interstate highways during the holiday season. The program's goal is to reduce traffic deaths through high visibility enforcement and education across the U.S. and Canada.

Lastly, the GSP reminds motorists to plan their travels carefully and allow plenty of time to reach their destinations.

"Anticipate traffic delays due to volume or a crash that blocks travel lanes," McDonough said. "Also, be prepared should rain make driving conditions hazardous."