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Increased patrols planned for New Year's travel period

By Linda Looney-Bond

lbond@news-daily.com

With 16 traffic fatalities predicted during the New Year's holiday travel period on Georgia's roads, state and local law enforcement agencies are urging motorists to drive with caution.

During the 78-hour New Year's travel period, which begins at 6 p.m., Thursday, and ends at midnight Sunday, 2,330 automobile crashes and 1,004 accident-related injuries are also predicted, according to Georgia State Patrol officials.

State and local law enforcement agencies are planning stepped-up patrols.

"Of course we're going to focus on DUI drivers," said Lt. Brian Danekes, commander of the Clayton County Police Department's traffic unit. "We're going to do spot road checks. We're also going to patrol the interstates and the major thoroughfares, like the state routes, and then, we're going to do saturated DUI patrols," said Danekes.

"I'm going to have units where the only thing they're going to do is focus on impaired drivers," he added.

In 2008, during the 102-hour New Year's holiday travel period, there were 22 traffic deaths, and 2,998 crashes, resulting in 1,222 injuries on Georgia's roads, according to the Governor's Office of Highway Safety.

"The message we want to give is, we want people to have a good time," said Danekes. "We're not telling anyone not to drink, just don't drink and drive -- and have a designated driver," he said.

Cpl. Dwayne Fabian, of the Georgia State Patrol post in Forest Park, said state troopers will also concentrate on speeding and impaired drivers.

"We'll try to slow drivers down, and target all DUI drivers, especially on New Year's Eve," said Fabian.

During the 78-hour Christmas holiday travel period this year, there were fewer traffic-related deaths, accidents, and injuries than predicted, according to Georgia State Patrol officials.

Twelve people were killed during the Christmas travel period that ended at midnight Sunday, according to a state patrol spokesman. Also, 503 people were injured in 2,167 crashes.

The Georgia State Patrol and the Crash Reporting Unit of the Georgia Department of Transportation had predicted 18 fatalities, 976 injuries, and 2,226 crashes on Georgia's roads over the Christmas travel period.