GSP planning for busy holiday weekend

Published 1:36 pm Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Plan carefully, use caution, and buckle up are the recommendations from the Georgia State Patrol for a safe Memorial Day holiday weekend.

Col. Bill Hitchens, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Safety, said the 78-hour Memorial Day holiday weekend begins Friday, May 27, at 6 p.m. and ends at midnight Monday, May 30. Col. Hitchens said traffic will be heavy throughout the weekend as graduation ceremonies, festivals and vacation travel will add to normal weekend traffic.

“We anticipate a busy weekend on Georgia roads,” he said.

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During the 2010 Memorial Day weekend, the Georgia Department of Transportation’s Crash Reporting Unit reports 2,143 traffic crashes across the state that resulted in 945 injuries and five fatalities.

“The number of traffic deaths during the holiday weekend last year was the lowest ever recorded for Memorial Day weekend,” Col. Hitchens said.

The Georgia DOT reports one of the traffic deaths was a pedestrian and one was a motorcyclist.

Col. Hitchens said troopers will not only be patrolling the interstates but the secondary roads as well.

“Last year, there were no interstate fatalities recorded during the holiday period, but two of the deaths were on state highways and three were on county roads or city streets.”

The commissioner encourages everyone who will be traveling to always use their safety belt and take the time to make sure children are properly restrained.

“This is All-American Buckle-Up Week across the country and state highway patrols and state police agencies are concentrating on getting the message out that safety belt use saves lives,” he 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 Chiefs of Police for state law enforcement agencies across the United States and Canada in a campaign 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 underway across the nation. Law enforcement officers are working together by conducting road checks and concentrated patrols to enforce occupant protection laws.

The Georgia State Patrol 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,” Col. Hitchens said. “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.”

Additionally, Col. Hitchens asked motorists to be considerate of other drivers and be patient while 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. The lowest number was recorded last year when five people were killed. The Crash Reporting Unit began keeping statistics on Memorial Day travel in 1969.