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Law agencies focusing on safe holiday

Last year’s Fourth of July weekend yielded 1,829 crashes

POSTED: July 2, 2011 12:12 a.m.

The holiday weekend is a time to fire up the grill, put your feet up and relax — that is, unless you work for the Georgia State Patrol.

Both local and state law enforcement have said they will be stepping up traffic patrol during a weekend historically filled with fatal car accidents.

"With gasoline prices trending downward, we're already seeing higher (traffic) volumes, particularly on the interstate highways," said Harris Blackwood, director of the Governor's Office of Highway Safety.

"As warm as it has been, the (North Georgia mountains) are a great place of retreat. A lot of people are going to be heading that way. We want to welcome them to the mountains, but we need them to be as safe as possible."

Last year's Fourth of July weekend yielded 1,829 crashes, 834 injuries and 11 traffic deaths in Georgia, according to a news release.

In an attempt to keep these numbers down, law enforcement agencies plan to set up road checkpoints across the state.

Each car will be stopped at various locations and inspected for violations.

Blackwood said a special emphasis will be placed on watching for impaired drivers.

"The officers who usually are at these road checks are trained professionals who can spot signs of persons who may be impaired," he said. "They can tell by their speech, they can tell by their actions and so forth."

But with BPI-Safe Rides operating in Hall County this weekend, there's no excuse to be caught driving over the limit.

"From 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on July 4, if (residents) have an issue that would compromise their ability to drive, we'll come pick them up," said Vivienne Long-Speer, Executive Director of Bill's Place, Inc., the local nonprofit that operates BPI-Safe Rides.

"Then we take them in their vehicle to their address. ... We escort them to the door then give them their car keys."

Long-Speer said the free service is provided to keep Hall County roads safe.

"Cost is relative if it's going to save someone's life," she said.

"It's none of our business if they drink. What's our business is to have people be safe. We don't preach ... we don't do any of that. We really want to be no questions asked."

Anyone wishing to arrange a ride home can call 770-533-1103.

Long-Speer said they are usually able to arrive for pickup within 30 minutes.

But officers will be looking for more then just drunk drivers.

Blackwood said law enforcement will also be checking child booster seats at the road checkpoints.

A new law which took effect Friday requires children up to age 8 to be strapped into a booster seat unless they are at least 4-foot, 9-inches tall.

"There's not going to be any tickets written right away," Blackwood said. "There is going to be a time of education. But they will be reminding parents if they see children who are 6- and 7-year-olds that the law is in effect."

Blackwood said there are many other actions people can take to make sure they have a safe holiday weekend.
"There are things we know can be done," he said.

"By slowing down, by buckling that seat belt, making sure your passengers are properly secured and put down the cell phone. ... If we get people to slow down, we know we'll see results from that. And the result will be fewer deaths, fewer injuries."



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