By Jason A. Smith
Law-enforcement personnel in Georgia are preparing for a potentially deadly holiday period, by encouraging residents to be mindful of necessary precautions as they drive.
The Georgia State Patrol (GSP) is participating in National Lifesaver Weekend, as part of Operation Combined Accident Reduction Effort (C.A.R.E.). The focus of the effort is to reduce the number of traffic deaths which occur in the state during the holidays.
The project, with the cooperation of trooper agencies in every state and Canada, will be kicked off Friday during National Lights on for Life Day. GSP officers will patrol the roads with their headlights on for the duration of the occasion.
Lt. Paul Cosper is a public information officer for the GSP. He said Lights on for Life carries an important message to the public. "It's designed to increase awareness of the dangers impaired drivers can cause."
Troopers will reportedly be concentrated in areas of the state where accidents and DUI drivers are more prevalent. Still, Cosper said the agency will have a presence in other locations, and road checkpoints as well.
The spokesman acknowledged the Christmas season as a time of celebrations, some of which may include the consumption of alcohol. Cosper issued a word of caution to party-goers, to "use good judgment" and to plan ahead.
"If you're going to be drinking, have a designated driver," he said. "If you're having a party, make arrangements to get people home safely."
Cosper's sentiments echoed those of Col. Bill Hitchens, Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Safety. In a written statement issued by the GSP Tuesday, Hitchens urged motorists to observe proper driving practices during the holiday enforcement period. He added that cell phone users can play a role in keeping the roads secure by calling Star G-S-P (*477) to notify authorities of suspected impaired drivers.
The Christmas season will follow a Thanksgiving weekend in which a significant number of crashes took place in Georgia. According to the GSP's web site, 4,542 traffic crashes, 1,073 injuries and 15 fatalities were recorded statewide during last month's holiday period. Those totals exceeded traffic estimates of 3,325 crashes, 950 injuries and 19 deaths.
The 102-hour Christmas holiday travel period will begin Dec. 24 at 6 p.m., and end at midnight Dec. 28. The GSP will resume increased enforcement efforts from Dec. 31 at 6 p.m., until midnight Jan. 4.