Posted on May 28, 2007

The Georgia Department of Public Safety (GDPS) began three national traffic safety campaigns May 21 to save lives and minimize serious injuries from motor vehicle crashes during summer.

Colonel Bill Hitchens, GDPS Commissioner, said Georgia state troopers and officers from the Motor Carrier Compliance Division and Capitol Police are partnering with law enforcement officers across the country to promote driver-safety measures during vacation travels.

Ga. Police Begin 3 Safety Campaigns

Operation “Click-It or Ticket,” which extends through June 3, is the nationwide seat belt enforcement program. “Troopers and officers will be strictly enforcing Georgia’s primary seat belt law and child restraint law.”

May 21 is also the kick-off of “All-American Buckle-Up Week” across the nation. From now through Memorial Day, civic and community groups join law enforcement officers to educate the public on the importance of wearing seat belts at all times. Georgia State Troopers also remind adults who transport children to take the time to make sure children are properly restrained and child safety seats are properly installed.

Georgia troopers also are participating in “Operation C.A.R.E.,” (Combined Accident Reduction Effort, which encourages safe driving through high visibility enforcement of traffic laws and public education efforts. The program among state highway patrols and state police agencies is in its 30th year and sponsored by the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

The highest number of Memorial Day weekend traffic fatalities was in 2005, when 32 people were killed. The lowest number was the 1979 Memorial Day weekend, when 10 motorists were killed. The GDPS Crash Reporting Unit began charting Memorial Day weekend traffic fatalities in 1969. Last year, 17 motorists died during the Memorial Day weekend. Nine of those passengers were not wearing seat belts.

Hitchens cautioned volume will be heavier throughout the holiday weekend with graduation ceremonies, festivals and vacationers.

But increased traffic isn’t the only problem Motorists in southern Georgia may have limited visibility due to wildfires burning in South Georgia and North Florida. “Earlier this month, traffic was detoured off Interstate 75 north of the Florida line on a Saturday,” he said. “Troopers will monitor visibility in the affected areas throughout the weekend in partnership with the Department of Transportation and provide assistance required to ensure traffic safety.”

With summer’s increasing temperatures, the colonel advised motorists to check their vehicles before hitting the road. “Tires should be properly inflated and fluids should be filled to proper levels,” he said. Hitchens also said wiper blades, fan belts and radiator hoses should be checked for cracks.

Seat Belts Reduce Ejections

“This time of year is especially busy and dangers increase on the highways,” Hitchens said. “These programs are designed to educate the motoring public of the dangers they face each day on our highways. Obeying the posted speed limit, not drinking and driving and making sure everyone is wearing a seat belt when traveling are the best steps drivers can take to prevent traffic deaths and serious injuries.”

Albany (Ga.) Police Trooper Darryl Benton said there is a reason behind seat belt enforcement. “The fatal accidents we work usually involve ejections — passengers were not wearing their seat belts,” he said. “You’re going to have people who argue, ‘I had an uncle who had his seat belt on and still died in an auto accident.’ But statistics show it’s safer to wear a seat belt than it is to not wear a seat belt.”

Nighttime More Dangerous

Troopers will be focusing on nighttime driving since it is more likely a fatality will result from an unbuckled passenger at night, according to a report from the Governor’s Office.

The report found 59 percent of occupants in passenger vehicles who died in nighttime crashes in 2005 were not wearing their seat belts. Across the United States in 2005, the report found more than 15,000 unbelted motorists died in nighttime crashes.

If you have a question about vehicle safety or traffic volume, call the GDPS at 404.624.7597 to speak to a GDPS public information officer.

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