2008-12-25 / Front Page

Road safety check points to watch for DUI, seatbelts throughout holiday period

Georgia State Patrol troopers from Washington's Post 17 will join Washington police and Wilkes County sheriff's deputies using sobriety checkpoints next week to watch for unbelted passengers and drivers who may have drunk too deeply of the season's spirits.

"Our troopers in Washington have a genuine concern for the folks on the road," Post 17 Commander Sgt. First Class Scott Andrews, "and we'll be conducting checkpoints over the holidays to protect them from impaired drivers, and to watch for child restraint violations. Those are serious issues with us."

The sobriety checkpoints and safety checkpoints will be manned by Georgia State Troopers, Washington Police, and Wilkes deputies at various times and locations during the upcoming Christmas holiday travel period that begins Christmas Eve at 6 p.m. and ends at midnight Sunday, December 28, Andrews said.

The Georgia State Patrol and the Crash Reporting Unit of the Georgia Department of Public Safety are estimating as many as 19 traffic deaths on Georgia roads during the holiday period. Additionally, the estimates are for 2,945 traffic crashes and 1,494 injuries across the state. Last year during the 102-hour Christmas holiday travel period, Georgia recorded 18 traffic deaths, 3,039 crashes, and 1,158 injuries.

Colonel Bill Hitchens, Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Safety, said last week that Georgia State Troopers and officers from the DPS Motor Carrier Compliance and Capitol Police divisions will also be closely watching for impaired drivers during holiday patrols. He noted troopers and officers will be conducting concentrated patrols on secondary roads and the interstates. "In addition, sobriety checkpoints will also be established across the state during the holiday weekend," Hitchens said.

The DPS commissioner noted that eight of the 18 traffic deaths last year involved an alcohol or drug impaired driver, and six of the 14 fatalities in passenger cars were not wearing seat belts. "The traffic crash data from the Department of Transportation bears out the reasons troopers and officers will be patrolling throughout the holiday period," Hitchens said. "We want everyone to enjoy the holiday season while making traffic safety a priority as they travel."

Troopers remind drivers always to wear their seat belt, make sure children are properly restrained, maintain a safe distance from the vehicle ahead of you, and don't operate a motor vehicle if you have consumed alcoholic beverages. "Remember also, you can help law enforcement officers keep our roads safe by reporting suspected impaired drivers to the nearest Georgia State Patrol post by calling Star G-S-P (*477) on your cell phone," Hitchens said.

The highest number of traffic deaths during the Christmas holiday travel period occurred in 1971 when 36 people were killed, and the lowest was in 1982 and 2002 when only five fatalities were recorded.

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