The Georgia State Patrol is preparing for a busy July 4th holiday period despite higher gasoline prices that could mean fewer vehicles on Georgia roads.
Col. Bill Hitchens, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Safety, said Wednesday that Georgia could see a repeat of the Memorial Day holiday weekend when traffic across the state was lighter than expected.
The July 4th holiday travel period begins Thursday at 6 p.m. and ends at midnight Sunday. Last year during a 30-hour holiday period, there were 643 traffic crashes reported that resulted in 267 injuries and nine traffic deaths.
“This year with the July 4th holiday falling on Friday, the holiday travel period includes a Friday and Saturday night,” Hitchens said. “These are often the deadliest times on our roads during a holiday period.”
Traffic estimates from the Georgia Department of Transportation’s Crash Reporting Unit and the Georgia State Patrol are for 2,315 traffic crashes, 1,094 injuries and 23 traffic deaths. Last year, three of the nine traffic deaths involved alcohol-impaired drivers and five of the people killed were not wearing seat belts. The DOT noted that eight of the nine traffic deaths were in crashes on state highways, county roads and city streets while only one was on the interstate system.
Hitchens said state troopers and officers with the DPS Motor Carrier Compliance Division and Capitol Police Services Unit will be watching for impaired drivers during their weekend patrols.
“The warmer weather and holiday parties tend to increase the number of impaired drivers on our roads,” he said. “If you will be traveling this holiday period, designate a sober driver before the party begins, give your car keys to the host, or make other arrangements to get home, but by all means don’t drive if you have been consuming alcohol.”
Troopers will be maintaining a presence on the interstates but also concentrating on the secondary roads where the majority of the traffic crashes occur.
“Our goal is to maintain high visibility and reduce the number of crashes throughout the state,” Hitchens noted.
Troopers also will be conducting roadchecks across the state during the holiday period targeting impaired drivers, drivers operating a vehicle with a suspended or revoked license, equipment violations, and other violations that pose a hazard to other motorists on the road.
The commissioner asks all drivers who will be on the roads this holiday weekend to help Georgia law enforcement officers keep the roads safe by reporting suspected impaired drivers.
“The July 4th holiday period is the 14th anniversary of the Star G-S-P (*477) program in Georgia and motorists making the free cell phone call have been a tremendous asset to law enforcement over the years by being extra eyes on the road,” Hitchens said. “It is crucial that impaired drivers are intercepted before they cause a traffic crash and destroy the lives of so many people.”
The July 4th holiday travel period 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 state police and highway patrols across the U.S. and Canada to reduce the number of traffic crashes through traffic enforcement and education. The program began in 1977.
The Georgia State Patrol also reminds drivers involved in traffic crashes of Georgia’s “Steer It and Clear It” law.
Drivers involved in crashes with no apparent serious personal injury or death are required to move their vehicles out of the traffic lanes if the vehicle is drivable.