GSP troopers will have heavy presence during holiday weekend

COVINGTON -- Georgia State Patrol troopers from Post 46 in Monroe, which covers Newton, Rockdale and Walton counties, are preparing for full patrols during the peak travel times this holiday weekend. The 78-hour Memorial Day holiday travel period begins at 6 p.m. today and ends at midnight on Memorial Day.

Col. Mark McDonough, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Safety, said troopers will be conducting road checks, high visibility patrols, and concentrated patrols across the state during the holiday period watching for impaired drivers, seat belt use violators, and other traffic violations that could potentially cause a traffic crash. McDonough said troopers will not only be patrolling the interstates but the secondary roads, as well.

During the 2012 Memorial Day weekend, the GSP investigated 326 traffic crashes that resulted in 278 injuries, and six traffic fatalities. Statewide last year, law enforcement officers reported 16 traffic deaths during this period.

"We want to make holiday travel as safe as possible," he said.

In addition to the traffic crash investigations last year, troopers arrested 301 people for driving under the influence while issuing 6,621 citations and 9,321 warnings.

Troopers reported that speed, a lack of occupant protection use, and impaired drivers were the leading contributing factors in a majority of the traffic crashes that they investigated.

While traveling during this busy weekend, McDonough said motorists should be alert, patient and courteous to one another to help prevent crashes. Traffic will be heavier than normal due to traffic from graduation ceremonies, festivals, and vacation travelers adding to the normal weekend traffic flow.

And, McDonough reminds all drivers to make sure that everyone in the vehicle is wearing a seat belt, to obey the posted speed limit, and to use a designated driver if the consumption of alcoholic beverages will be in your plans.

"Drunk driving is dangerous and not worth the risk of killing yourself or someone else. Remember the purpose and celebrate during the holiday period responsibly. Always keep safety at the forefront of everything you will do," he said.

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. The lowest number was recorded in 1979 when 10 people were killed. The Georgia Department of Transportation Crash Reporting Unit began keeping statistics on Memorial Day travel in 1969.

Also, the Memorial Day holiday annually marks the beginning of the Governor's Office for Highway Safety Click It or Ticket campaign, which emphasizes the use of seat belts. In 2011 unrestrained victims represented 34 percent of the 421 traffic deaths statewide for that year. Although since the inception of the Click It or Ticket annual campaign, the death rate due to not wearing safety belts has decreased, unrestrained victims continue to die.

"Not only is it the law, but it's also the best way to protect yourself against other careless or dangerous drivers," said GOHS Director Harris Blackwood. "This campaign is not about writing tickets, but rather saving lives. It's that simple. If you don't click it, you will get a ticket."