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Posted: June 24, 2009 12:30 a.m.

Extra officers on the road for July 4 holiday

Law enforcement starting patrols early to prepare

Law enforcement officers have started an increase in patrol a little early this year in anticipation of a busy Fourth of July weekend.

The Georgia Department of Highway Safety announced their plans to begin immediately attempting to crack down on DUIs. According to a press release, 14 people were killed in Georgia during the 2007 holiday weekend. Half of the deaths were DUI-related.

"The July 4 travel period is the second most deadly time to drive on Georgia roadways," said GOHS Director of Public Affairs Jim Shuler. "Only New Year’s poses a greater threat to life behind the wheel or in the passenger seat."

According to Newton County Sheriff’s Office 1st Lt. Mark Mitchell, the NCSO deputies and traffic unit will also be out in greater numbers to enforce the seatbelt and DUI laws.

"It’s one of the busier holiday weekends," he said. "And patrol units will be aggressively enforcing the laws and making sure the roads are safe."

Newton County Fire Chief Mike Satterfield said the fire departments are preparing for the holiday as well. The biggest problems they encounter are the threat of fire caused by the use of fireworks and injuries because of fireworks.

"Fireworks are one of the biggies," he said. "We have the possibility of fire when we have dry conditions and many times fireworks — especially sparklers — are the cause of grass and woods fires. From time to time we also have injuries caused by burns. Usually when someone is holding a firework that explodes," he said, adding that most of the burn injuries come from illegal fireworks that are purchased out-of-state. Georgia only allows non-explosive fireworks, such as snakes and sparklers.

Satterfield said that fire officials will also be on hand to help out at the lakes and bodies of water in the county.

"There are two things that don’t mix," he said. "Those are water and alcohol. When we have excessive use of alcohol and then people get around the lake, that’s when we have problems with drowning and boating accidents."

For the Georgia State Patrol, the holiday begins July 2 at 6 p.m. and lasts for 78 hours, until July 5. Using data from previous years, the GSP predicts 22 fatalities state-wide, along with 825 injuries from car accidents and more then 1,800 car accidents.

"We encourage people to obey the speed limit and if you are going to be consuming alcoholic beverages do not drive, have a designated driver. If you are hosting an event we would appreciate it if you would monitor your guests," said Lt. Paul Cusper. "If you see someone out there driving erratically please notify the authorities," he continued. "You can call 911 or *GSP (477) and tell us a general description and direction of travel of the vehicle. There will also be road checks located in strategic places."

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