Col. Mark W. McDonough, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Safety, said Georgia state troopers will patrol during the holiday period in an effort to keep the number of traffic crashes, injuries 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 roadchecks 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 Georgia State Patrol 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 of the fatal crashes involved alcohol.
The holiday period is also part of the nationwide mobilization of Operation Click It or Ticket. Law enforcement officers across the United States are concentrating on seat belt and child restraint violations throughout the holiday period in an effort to save lives.
“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.”
The commissioner added that troopers will also be watching for impaired drivers during holiday patrols. He noted the Thanksgiving holiday period is also a time when impaired drivers fail to heed the warnings to choose a designated driver.
“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.”
The Georgia State Patrol reminds motorists to plan their travels carefully and allow plenty of time to reach 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.”
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 nation’s highway patrols that promotes safe driving on interstate highways during the holiday periods. This is the 35th year of Operation C.A.R.E., sponsored by the International Association of Chiefs of Police. The program’s goal is to reduce traffic deaths through high visibility enforcement and education across the United States and Canada.
The highest number of traffic deaths ever recorded for the Thanksgiving holiday period was 43 in 1969 and the lowest was four in 1949.
Traffic fatalities in Georgia are expected to rise in Georgia in 2012, marking the first increase in the state’s traffic deaths in more than five years.
In light of the potential increase in deaths, McDonough and Harris Blackwood, director of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, launched “Operation: Safe Holidays” Tuesday in a tour that they hope will stem the tide of rising traffic fatalities this year.
“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,” Blackwood said. “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.”
The potential increase in road fatalities for 2012, if realized, would come after six consecutive years of decreasing fatality rates on Georgia’s roadways.
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 in Georgia.
Appearing together in five cities across the state, McDonough and Blackwood called attention to the increasing need for vigilance on Georgia’s roads in the final 41 days of the year, saying that saving a life is as simple as securing a seat belt.
“Wearing your seat belt is the single most effective thing you can do to ensure you and your passengers arrive safely to your family’s Thanksgiving celebration,” McDonough said. “It’s also an effective way to avoid getting stopped by law enforcement on your way home.”