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Holiday traffic wrecks top predictions

Commerce man dies in Jackson County accident

POSTED: December 8, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Georgia roads may have been busier than expected this Thanksgiving holiday — a result of dropping gas prices — as authorities worked more wrecks than last year or had been predicted this year.

The Georgia State Patrol reported 4,180 traffic crashes as of 6 p.m. Sunday, along with 985 injuries and 15 deaths.

Last year, Georgia had 3,057 traffic crashes and 1,190 injuries reported in the 102-hour holiday period, which begins at 6 p.m. Wednesday and ends at midnight Sunday each year. Twenty-one crashes caused 27 traffic deaths.

This year, the state patrol estimated as many as 3,325 crashes, 950 injuries and 19 fatalities could occur on Georgia roads.

As of 6 p.m. Sunday, the state patrol post in Gainesville had no fatalities and was otherwise experiencing a quiet day.

The state patrol post in Athens had one fatality, a 54-year-old Commerce man who lost control of his vehicle Sunday afternoon on Ga. 326 in Jackson County near Banks County.

Guytrell Martin was driving west on Ga. 326 when the vehicle went off the road.

"He over-corrected, causing him to lose control," said Trooper Chris Kelch, who worked the accident. "He went down an embankment and struck a tree."

Martin, who wasn’t wearing a seat belt, went through the windshield, Kelch said.

He was pronounced dead at the scene.

The driver’s 12-year-old son, a passenger in the vehicle, was wearing a seat belt and suffered only minor injuries, Kelch said.

He didn’t release the name of the boy, who was taken to Athens Regional Medical Center.

The wreck took place at about 12:50 p.m.

Other area law enforcement agencies reported a slow finish to the holiday weekend.

With gasoline prices across Georgia below the national average, the state patrol prepared for what they believed would be the heaviest holiday travel period so far this year.

Col. Bill Hitchens, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Safety, had said that troopers, as well as officers with the department’s Motor Carrier Compliance and Capitol Police Services divisions, would be out in force.

"Most fatal crashes during a holiday period in Georgia involve an alcohol impaired driver, speed or the person killed not (wearing) seat belts," he said.

Traffic data compiled from the 2007 Thanksgiving holiday period by the Georgia Department of Transportation found eight of the 27 traffic deaths involved an alcohol- or drug-impaired driver.

Thirteen of the traffic fatalities were not using seat belts or other safety equipment. Also, "the traffic crash data bears out the importance that we balance our patrols between the interstates and the secondary roads," Hitchens said.

The highest number of traffic deaths ever recorded for the Thanksgiving holiday period was 43 in 1969 and the lowest was four in 1949.

During the past six years in Georgia, 111 people have been killed in traffic crashes during Thanksgiving holiday periods with 7,365 injuries reported in 18,823 traffic crashes.



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