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GSP warns against unsafe spring break driving

By Jason A. Smith

jsmith@henryherald.com

As families in Georgia embark on their spring break activities, state law enforcement officials are once again emphasizing safety among residents and travelers on Georgia roads.

The Georgia State Patrol and the Governor's Office of Highway Safety are increasing their focus on safe driving, with increased patrols and admonitions to the public.

GSP troopers will be monitoring interstates for impaired or reckless drivers over the next several weeks, according to senior trooper Larry Schnall.

He said many Spring Break drivers are often careless behind the wheel, on their way to their desired vacation spot.

"We see inexperienced drivers and/or others, who are often distracted and so focused on reaching their destination, that sometimes they forget about safety," said Schall.

He noted that carelessness often translates into an increase in the number of intoxicated drivers, resulting in fatalities and serious injuries.

The senior trooper said GSP personnel at posts across the state will be abnormally heavy at times in the coming weeks, as counties in the state observe Spring Break during different times of the season.

Law enforcement officials will also be keeping an eye out, during Spring Break, for drivers under 21 who are impaired by alcohol. In a press release issued Friday, GOHS director Bob Dallas noted the "deadly serious" nature of underage drinking and driving, and issued a warning to parents who allow teens to consume alcohol at parties in their homes.

"Parents need to know that hosting a party where alcohol is being served to minors is not only illegal, [but] it's extremely dangerous, both for their teens and for other residents in the community," Dallas said. "Then there are the legal liabilities faced by any parent foolish enough, to serve alcohol to an underaged drinker."

The GOHS release also noted the importance of seat belt usage and sober driving, citing data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. A 2006 NHTSA report indicates that among drivers 15-20 years old who were involved in fatal crashes that year, 31 percent had been drinking, and 77 percent were not wearing a seat belt.

As officials keep an eye out for unsafe drivers, Trooper Schnall said motorists should "expect delays, and plan their trips accordingly."

"No one ever leaves their home, and plans to have a crash," he said. "So use caution when hitting the roadways, and remember that a seat belt is the best defense against [unsafe] drivers."