Memorial Day travel time begins

By Ed Brock

Maria Lopez will be staying home in Riverdale this Memorial Day weekend.

"On the news they say there are going to be attacks so I'd better stay home," Lopez said. "I'm not afraid but careful, you know."

Despite the latest terrorist alerts and ever rising gas prices aside, there will be lots of people traveling this weekend.

Thus public safety officials are once again urging caution among holiday travelers.

The Georgia State Patrol and the Georgia Department of Motor Vehicle Safety are predicting that during the 78-hour Memorial Day holiday period, beginning at 6 p.m. Friday and ending at midnight Monday, there will be 2,250 crashes. Those crashes are expected to result in 575 injuries and 13 deaths.

"Plan your trips carefully, don't drink and drive and make sure your seatbelt is fastened at all times," said Col. George Ellis, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Safety. "If you will be transporting children, take the time to make sure they are properly restrained as well."

Friday and Monday will see the most traffic.

During the holiday period last year there were 2,311 accidents with 11 deaths and 554 injuries, according to the DMVS.

"Wearing your seatbelt is still the single most effective way to save lives and reduce injuries on our roadways," DMVS Commissioner James Davis said.

Also, throughout the summer drivers should be aware that there will be more children on the streets, according to the AAA Auto Club South. Drivers should give themselves a 20 to 30 second "visual lead" while driving, said Yoli Buss, AAA director of traffic safety.

"Parents need to instruct children to play in their back yards or at playgrounds, away from traffic," Buss said. "Children need to understand what to do if unsafe situations arise; for example, ask a parent to retrieve a ball that goes into the street."

Other AAA safety trips include exercising extra caution in neighborhoods and around playgrounds where children are likely to be playing, "scanning" between parked cars between which children can run into the road and make eye contact with children who are crossing the street the driver and child know each other's intentions.

AAA predicts that 888,000 Georgians will be traveling during the weekend, and 796,000 are expected to drive. That represents a 3 percent increase in drivers over last year and a 6 percent increase in people flying.

For those who are flying, the Transportation Security Administration has several tips available on its Web site, www.tsa.gov, to ease the passage through security.

Do not pack prohibited items (the entire list is available on the Web site but includes things like corkscrews and "Transformer" toy robots), avoid wearing shoes, clothing and jewelry that contain metal and put undeveloped film and cameras inside carry-on bags.

Drivers should also be aware that police departments in the Atlanta area are participating in the "100 Days of Summer HEAT" and the "Click It or Ticket" operations designed to increase enforcement of seatbelt laws, speeding violations and more.

Business was non-stop on Thursday at the AAA center on Mt. Zion Road in Morrow.

"We're doing a lot of driving trips it seems," AAA Division Manager Lisa Weaver said.

Judy Montgomery of Covington was at the center, getting together her travel plans for a trip by car to California. They planned to leave Friday afternoon, right about when everybody else would be doing the same.

"It's going to be awful. But we had to wait for a child to get out of school and that's when she got out of school," Montgomery said.

The high gas prices are inconvenient but must be endured, Montgomery said. The possibility of terrorist attack doesn't concern her.

Sonethia White of Morrow will also not be traveling this weekend, but fear of terrorist attack has nothing to do with it.

"I'll be at work," White said. "But we're going to a picnic after work."