By Maria-Jose Subiria
Motorists are urged to use caution, and obey speed limits, while driving during the holidays.
Both the Christmas and New Year's holiday periods will last 78 hours, and could be deadly on Georgia roads, according to Col. Bill Hitchens, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Safety.
The Clayton and Henry County police departments' Highway Enforcement of Aggressive Traffic (H.E.A.T) units will be on the lookout for motorists driving recklessly or under the influence, as part of Operation Zero Tolerance, a statewide campaign to keep Georgia's roads safe.
The police departments will participate in this campaign until Jan. 2.
The Christmas holiday travel period begins today, at 6 p.m., and will end Sunday, at midnight, according to Georgia Department of Public Safety officials. The New Year's holiday travel period will begin on Dec. 30, at 6 p.m., and will end on Jan. 2, at midnight.
"Last year during the two holiday periods, the majority of the fatal crashes occurred on state highways, county roads and city streets," said Hitchens. "So we [Georgia State Troopers and Motor Carrier Compliance Division officers] will balance our enforcement efforts between the secondary roads and the interstates."
Troopers will be conducting road checks and concentrated patrols throughout the holiday periods in the state of Georgia, he said.
"Impaired drivers, and people not using safety equipment will be our top priorities," explained Hitchens.
Hitchens stressed that drivers and passengers should always wear their seat belts, as well as, assure children are properly secured.
Motorists should also maintain a safe distance between themselves and the vehicle ahead, said Hitchens.
Those who drink alcoholic beverages, and plan to travel on the roads, should choose a designated driver, and should not operate their own vehicles, he also stressed.
Last year during the 78-hour holiday periods, Georgia recorded 1,948 traffic crashes over the Christmas holiday period, that injured 809 people, and claimed the lives of 11 people, officials said. During the New Year's period, 11 people were also killed. There were 2,083 crashes and 789 injuries reported.
Officials added that last year, five of the 11 fatalities during the Christmas travel period, and six of the 11 fatalities during the New Year's travel period were not using safety equipment.
For each holiday period last year, there was one pedestrian fatality, said Hitchens.
Hitchens said the Crash Reporting Unit data of the Georgia Department of Transportation, revealed there was one alcohol-related fatality during the Christmas holiday travel period, and none during the New Year's holiday travel period.
"We want everyone to enjoy the holiday season, while making traffic safety a priority as they travel," said Hitchens.