By Linda Looney-Bond
The 102-hour Thanksgiving holiday travel period begins today, and local and state authorities are planning stepped-up traffic enforcement through the holiday weekend.
Lt. Paul Cosper, of the Georgia State Patrol, said state troopers will be concentrating on seat-belt and speed violations, while watching for impaired drivers on the state's roads. "There are going to be license checks and road checks," said Cosper. "If you don't have your seat belt on, and a trooper sees you, you're going to get a ticket.
"We want people to enjoy the holidays, but we want them to be responsible. If you want to partake in alcoholic beverages, get a designated driver," he said.
As part of the stepped-up enforcement, The Clayton County Police Department is promising around-the-clock enforcement, aimed at reducing fatalities and injuries during the Thanksgiving travel period, according to GlenNeta Griffin, public information officer for the department.
The Henry County Police Department is also participating in the road-safety campaign, and will be out in force.
The November Click It or Tick it Campaign, which began last week, is already underway statewide. The safety-belt enforcement campaign coordinates high-visibility road checks and concentrated patrols, so that officers will write tickets to remind motorists to wear their safety belts, according to Griffin.
"Our number one concern is the safety of our citizens, and that includes making sure that they are safe while traveling on our highways and roadways," said Clayton County Police Chief Jeff Turner, in a written statement.
"This campaign reminds citizens to buckle up for their safety, and if they choose not to click it, they will be ticketed," Turner said.
Operation Click it or Ticket will continue through Sunday, Griffin said.
The 102-hour, holiday period begins at 6 p.m., today, and ends at midnight Sunday, according to a statement from the Georgia Department of Public Safety.
The Georgia State Patrol and the Crash Reporting Unit of the Georgia Department of Transportation predict 3,570 traffic crashes, 1,398 injuries, and 16 deaths on the state's roads during the holiday period this year.
Those numbers are down compared to last year's incidents. Last year, during the same travel period, there were 3,815 traffic crashes, 1,457 injuries, and 19 fatalities.
"Any one event could cause those numbers to be skewed, such as a bus crash," said Cosper. "It's just statistical data -- the way they formulate that. Either way, we're hoping it'll be well below the 16 [predicted deaths].
"It also depends on the weather. If you throw wet roads in there, that just seems to compound the problem," Cosper said.
Last year, seven of the 19 people killed in traffic crashes during the Thanksgiving holiday period in Georgia were not wearing seatbelts, and one of the victims died in an alcohol-related crash, according to Cosper.
Meanwhile, AAA Auto Club South is predicting a three percent increase in overall travel -- by air and roadways -- in Georgia and Florida this Thanksgiving season, compared to last year.
"We take the projected increase in travelers as a sign that economic recovery may finally be taking root, and we believe many Americans certainly share the same hope," said Kevin Bakewell, senior vice president of AAA Auto Club South, in a written statement.