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Posted: May 28, 2010 12:30 a.m.

Troopers prepare for busy Memorial Weekend

AAA partners with Budweiser to offer a free ride home to intoxicated drivers

The 78-hour Memorial Day holiday travel period begins this Friday evening and the Georgia State Patrol will be watching for impaired drivers and other traffic violations that could potentially cause a traffic crash. The holiday period begins at 6 p.m. Friday and ends Memorial Day.

Colonel Bill Hitchens, Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Safety, said Georgia State Troopers and officers from the department’s Motor Carrier Compliance Division and Capitol Police are preparing for full patrols during the peak travel times over the 78-hour holiday period. He reminds drivers to exercise caution this holiday weekend while they travel. "Last year, 16 people died on our roads during the holiday weekend, including three deaths that were alcohol-related," he said. "Seven of the 14 people killed in car crashes were not wearing seat belts or other safety equipment," he said. Two people were killed in motorcycle crashes.

Drivers who find themselves inebriated and unable to drive can take advantage of the Tow to Go program, sponsored by AAA Auto Club South and Budweiser. Tow to Go is credited with safely removing more than 11,400 drunk drivers off the roads since it started in 1998. Anyone can call for a ‘Tow to Go’ ride Friday May 28, through Monday, May 31.

‘Tow to Go’ provides a confidential ride and tow home from any bar or restaurant — free of charge — to anyone who may have had too much to drink by calling (1-800) AAA-HELP (4357). Services are now offered throughout all of Florida, Georgia, and West and Middle Tennessee.

"Each summer, Memorial Day call volume increases and we hope it is because people are making good choices and deciding not to get behind the wheel when they have had too much drink," said Ed Schatzman, senior vice president, Automotive Services, AAA Auto Club South. "Ideally people will choose a designated driver before they go out to socialize, but if they don’t, programs like these exist to give them another chance to make the right decision to hand over their keys."

Traffic estimates from the Crash Reporting Unit at the Georgia Department of Transportation and the Georgia State Patrol are for 1,972 traffic crashes, 696 injuries and 15 traffic deaths on Georgia roads during the period. During the Memorial Day holiday weekend last year, Georgia recorded 16 traffic deaths and 2,430 crashes. The crashes resulted in 1,126 injuries.

Hitchens encourages everyone who will be traveling always to use their seat belt and take the time to make sure children are properly restrained at all times. "This is All-American Buckle-Up Week across the country," Colonel Hitchens noted. "State highway patrols and state police agencies are concentrating on getting the message out that seat belt use saves lives." 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 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 occurred in 1979 and 2007 when 10 deaths were recorded. The Crash Reporting Unit began keeping statistics on Memorial Day travel in 1969.

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