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Weathering Labor Day weekend

By Ed Brock

Labor Day weekend vacationers will be dodging bad weather and facing increased traffic enforcement, but officials are still predicting a lot of people will be traveling.

The remnants of Hurricane Frances will be hitting the Clayton County area some time early Monday, but Clayton County Police Capt. Tom Israel said he still expects heavy traffic.

"This is the last holiday of the summer," Israel said. "This is the kind of holiday where people get out and enjoy the last of the summer."

Threats of a storm weren't enough to deter Helen Nguyen of Jonesboro and her family from their plans.

"My parents and I are heading to Destin," 16-year-old Nguyen said.

And law enforcement will be out in force as well, Israel said, with saturated patrols, a speed enforcement initiative on Interstate 75 and the wrapping up of the "100 Days of Summer Heat" program that has been dedicated to focused traffic enforcement over the summer.

"But just because the program is ending doesn't mean that we're going to reduce our enforcement," Israel said.

Israel said the speed initiative would involve "very visible speed enforcement" along I-75 from Tampa and as far as Kentucky.

The Georgia State Patrol and the Georgia Department of Motor Vehicle Safety are predicting 2,459 accidents will occur over the holiday weekend between 6 p.m. today and midnight Monday. Of those, 827 are expected to result in injuries and 19 people are expected to die in those accidents.

Last year 20 people died in Labor Day weekend accidents.

"Tragically, 17 of the 20 people killed were in crashes that involved a driver who was impaired by alcohol, drugs or a combination of alcohol and drugs," said GSP Commander Col. George Ellis in a statement.

Israel will return today from another enforcement program, "Hands Across the Border," that also involves the GSP and law enforcement agencies in surrounding states. That program involved sobriety checkpoints followed by press conferences and the distribution of driving safety brochures and material at welcome centers in the participating states.

"It's been really good," said Israel on Thursday, the final day of the event. "As of this moment we've had 28 DUI arrests, 10 drug arrests and 2,000 citations."

Ellis urged citizens to report suspected drunk drivers by calling Star G-S-P (*477) on their cell phones. The number puts them in touch with the nearest state patrol post.