By Linda Looney-Bond
The Georgia State Patrol, and local law enforcement agencies, are urging motorists to drive with extra caution during the holiday season.
Last year, traffic crashes claimed the lives of 46 people in Georgia, during the two, 102-hour Christmas and New Year's holiday travel periods, according to the Georgia Department of Public Safety.
The Christmas and New Year's travel periods are each 78 hours long this year, state officials said.
"Now, through the first weekend of the new year, is when troopers see an increase in the number of vehicles on the roads, and an increase in the number of impaired drivers as well," said Col. Bill Hitchens, commissioner of the state Department of Public Safety.
"Stepped-up patrols will be conducted in an effort to keep the number of traffic crashes as low as possible," he said.
This year's Christmas travel period will begin at 6 p.m., today, and will end at midnight Sunday, according to Department of Public Safety officials.
During the Christmas travel period last year, Georgia recorded 24 traffic deaths, officials said. This year, 18 traffic fatalities are predicted during the 78-hour period.
Officials are predicting 976 injuries due to traffic crashes this Christmas holiday, compared to 1,261 injuries last year.
"We'll try to slow drivers down, and target all DUI drivers, especially on New Year's Eve," said Cpl. Dwayne Fabian, of the Georgia State Patrol post in Forest Park.
He gave this advice for motorists: "Make sure they wear their seat belts, don't drink and drive, don't follow too closely.
"And if they must use their cell phone, pull over to the side of the road, or an exit ramp, then continue on their destination," he said.