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Posted: May 22, 2009 12:30 a.m.

GSP: accidents high on Memorial Day

Police plan to be out in force

Memorial Day weekend is considered the official kickoff for summer and celebrations are a common occurrence in Newton County, but law enforcement officials are warning residents to celebrate safely because they will be out in force to make sure citizens are safe.

According to a press release from the Georgia State Patrol, troopers will be watching not only for unsafe drivers but also for those not wearing their safety belts. Estimates from the GSP say that over the 78-hour holiday period (from Friday evening until midnight Memorial Day) there could be as many as 2,725 traffic accidents, resulting in 875 injuries and 18 deaths.

"During the 2008 Memorial Day holiday travel period, 2,480 traffic crashes, 721 injuries and 12 fatal crashes resulting in 14 traffic deaths were reported to the Georgia State Patrol from law enforcement agencies across Georgia. The Georgia State Patrol investigated eight of the 12 fatal crashes. Investigating troopers report alcohol and the lack of safety belt use were the primary contributing factors in a majority of the fatal crashes they investigated. Alcohol was a factor in five of the traffic deaths and a driver impaired by drugs was noted in one fatal crash. Four of the victims were not restrained by safety belts."

In its 32nd year, GSP is participating in Operation C.A.R.E. (Combined Accident Reduction Effort) with other police agencies and state highway patrol. The program encourages the safe operation of motor vehicles and safety belt use through education and enforcement.

According to Newton County Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Jerry Carter the NCSO are planning for the holiday and officers will be out in full force, especially the traffic unit.

"We also have a commitment from Georgia State Patrol that they will be helping with enforcement Friday through Monday," he said." Carter added, "I hope that everyone will take into consideration that there are more people than normal out on the roads this weekend and they should drive safely. Also, if you are going to drink, please don't drive. The Sheriff's Office will be out there enforcing all of the traffic laws."

Colonel Bill Hitchens, Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Safety urged people to be careful this holiday. "If you will be traveling this holiday period, make sure everyone is properly restrained, obey the posted speed limit and designate a sober driver if alcohol consumption will be in your plans," he said. "In Georgia, if you a spot a suspected impaired driver, call *GSP (*477) on your cell phone to report the driver to the Georgia State Patrol."


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