Troopers pondering causes of fatal accidents

By Ed Brock

It wasn't the kind of record a state wants to set.

Over this past Memorial Day weekend 34 people died in traffic deaths in Georgia, the highest number of fatalities on record in the state for the holiday period. One of those deaths was in Clayton County.

The Georgia State Patrol is still trying to find out why the death toll was so high.

"I wish I knew. Perhaps luck was on the side of passengers in previous years," said Trooper Larry Schnall, patrol spokesman.

Not wearing seat belts, speed and alcohol likely contributed to most of the deaths, Schnall said, and the weekend's rainy weather may have contributed. Officials continued on Tuesday to review accident data collected over the weekend.

"A lot of people killed in fatal accidents do not wear seat belts," he said.

Typically, up to 87 percent of Georgia drivers and passengers wear seat belts.

Clayton County saw 86 accidents over the weekend, 11 of which resulted in injuries. The fatality occurred around 3:50 a.m. Sunday when Dores Nelson Mahone, Jr., 32, of Jonesboro ran out of the Sherwood Motel in Jonesboro and onto Tara Boulevard where he was hit by a car, Clayton County Police Capt. Jeff Turner said.

The number of recorded deaths far exceeded the 17 the state was expecting. One reason was that several accidents involved multiple deaths. Schnall said there were five accidents with double fatalities, one with triple fatalities and an accident in Green County that killed five people.

There were at least 2,726 accidents over the holiday weekend in Georgia, injuring 830 people.

The fatality total broke the record of 27 set in 1969, the year officials began keeping track of Memorial Day weekend fatalities. The Memorial Day holiday ran from 6 p.m. Friday to midnight Monday.

"Ironically that was the first year the state patrol started keeping records about the Memorial Day weekend," Schnall said.

Schnall said that the deadliest holiday weekend on record is Thanksgiving 1969 when 43 people were killed on the state's highways.

Law enforcement agencies around the state were also participating in the "100 Days of Summer Heat" and "Click It or Ticket" programs sponsored by the Governor's Office of Highway Safety. As the weekend kicked off Friday night Forest Park police hosted a road safety check on north Jonesboro Road near Interstate 285 in which Clayton County police and sheriff's deputies and the state patrol participated.

"Seat belt compliance was greater than expected, only a couple of citations were issued to motorists who failed to comply with the law," said Forest Park Police Capt. Chris Matson.

Overall police issued 23 citations during the safety check on offenses including DUI, driving without a license and no insurance. They arrested six people.