ATLANTA — It’s a fact of life.. And death: Failure to use safety belts is a major contributing factor in more than half of Georgia’s Thanksgiving holiday traffic deaths.
The heavily-traveled Thanksgiving weekend is one of the most dangerous and deadliest times of the year due to low safety belt use. Nationwide, more than half of all traffic crash victims killed during the last Thanksgiving holiday weekend were not wearing their safety belts.
On Thanksgiving Day 2006, five people were killed just in Georgia. Another three died on Georgia highways the next day, followed by 10 more Georgia fatalities before the holiday weekend had ended here. When it was over, the four-day Thanksgiving holiday weekend had claimed the lives of 18 people and injured 1,099.
“For those who think it just can’t happen to you, there were 2,618 injury or fatality crashes in Georgia alone during that short holiday travel period,” said Bob Dallas, director of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety.
“We truly agonize over those Georgia families that could have been spared the heartbreak of making funeral preparations while other families were making holiday travel arrangements to be with their loved ones,“ said GOHS Director Dallas. “It’s just so clear that safetybelts save lives.”
And yet day or night — Georgia or nationwide — unbuckled drivers and their passengers continue to pay the price.
With their lives. That’s why police, sheriff’s deputies and state troopers in Georgia will be cracking down on unbuckled drivers and their passengers when Operation Click It Or Ticket continues through the Thanksgiving holiday travel period to Nov. 25.
According to the latest NHTSA data, during the 2005 Thanksgiving holiday season, 376 people died during the daytime hours in passenger vehicle crashes between 6 a.m. and 5:59 p.m. and nearly the same amount, 347 people, died at night.
“High holiday fatality and injury predictions are the reason we’ve asked every law enforcement agency in Georgia to participate in the November Click It Or Ticket campaign,” said Director Dallas. “The GOHS safetybelt enforcement initiative coordinates high-visibility road checks and concentrated patrols so that officers from Rome to Rincon and from Cochran to Cuthbert will write tickets to remind motorists to wear their safety belts.”
Now through the end of the year is also the time when police see a noticeable increase in the number of drunk drivers on our highways. “So safetybelts should become a part of every family’s holiday tradition,” said Director Dallas.
“They’re not just for the long road-trips to grandma’s house. They’re lifesavers for the cross town shopping hop to the mall too. For safety’s sake, everyone should be buckled-up, every seat, every trip, every time.”
Because, the carnage doesn’t quit at Thanksgiving: The tragic truth is 31,415 passenger vehicle occupants died in crashes across the nation in 2005 and more than half of them weren’t wearing seat belts either.
That’s the reason MADD-Georgia is partnering with the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety to promote their “Tie One On For Safety,” public awareness project this Thanksgiving.
The familiar MADD red ribbons tied to car antennas are symbols of driver pledges to drive safe, sober and buckled-up in support of MADD’s campaign to eliminate drunk driving. More than 6 million ribbons are distributed every year as reminders to support safer roads, free from drunk driving.
MADD joins GOHS this Thanksgiving holiday, asking law enforcement everywhere to be out in force to crack down on drivers and passengers who aren’t buckled-up, because seat belts are still the best defense in a crash caused by a drunk driver.
The red ribbon campaign also calls for intensive, high-visibility law enforcement efforts that include sobriety checkpoints and saturation patrols. MADD’s Tie One On For Safety campaign runs Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day, when road travel is the heaviest of the year and impaired driving typically increases.
“I’ve said it before; this is not about writing more tickets. It’s about saving more lives,” said Dallas. “And I’ll keep saying that until we stop seeing needless deaths on Georgia highways because drivers and passengers won’t invest the three seconds it takes to protect them from sudden death or serous injury by buckling up the standard safety equipment that comes free with their ride.
“Unfortunately too many folks still need a tough reminder. So, in Georgia, if you don’t click it, you should expect a ticket.”