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Law enforcement out in force July 4

By Ed Brock

Celebrating Independence Day with a beer or two is fine, but law enforcement agencies across the state are advising people to stay home or have a designated driver if that is the case.

As part of Operation Zero Tolerance, police and state troopers will be out in force looking for impaired drivers.

"Alcohol or drugs were a factor in 14 of the 19 deaths we had (during the July 4 holiday period) last year," said Gordy Wright, Georgia State Patrol spokesman.

There were 3,069 traffic crashes last year with 714 injuries, according to the GSP. They are predicting 1,893 crashes this year with 901 injuries and 19 fatalities.

The prediction for this year is much lower because last year the holiday fell on a Thursday, thus the holiday period was 102 hours long, Wright said.

Clayton County Police will be participating in Operation Zero Tolerance, as well as Riverdale police and other municipal departments.

"There will be several road safety checkpoints," Riverdale police Officer Russell Rogers said.

And they won't only be looking for impaired drivers.

"We'll be watching the interstate for excessive speeders," Clayton County Police Capt. Tom Israel said. "We're expecting a lot of traffic because the holiday's falling on a Friday."

Drivers and passengers should make sure to wear their seatbelts, Israel said, and if they plan on drinking party-goers should choose a designated driver.

Wright also said to anticipate the presence of impaired drivers on the road and to drive defensively.

The state patrol had more safety tips.

"Heat takes its toll on motor vehicles and drivers should take steps to avoid mechanical breakdowns," GSP Commander Col. George Ellis said in a statement. "This is a good time of the year to make sure belts and hoses do not need replacing, that tires are properly inflated and tire treads are sufficient for summer driving."