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Buckle up before you chow down: Law enforcement watching seatbelt usage on Thanksgiving holiday travel
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Gainesville Police Officer Nick Smith aims a radar gun at traffic Wednesday, May 13, 2020, along EE Butler Parkway. - photo by Scott Rogers

Even with fewer people expected on Georgia roadways, law enforcement said it will be focusing on drivers being buckled and safe during the Thanksgiving holiday travel days.

The Governor’s Office of Highway Safety said officers will be focusing on seatbelt usage, distracted driving, speeding and impaired drivers during the Thanksgiving holiday travel period, which started on Nov. 16 and runs through Sunday, Nov. 29.

“We’re seeing, compared to this time last year, an increase in traffic fatalities on our roads overall even though the volume of traffic has dropped about on average 10-15%,” highway safety spokesman Robert Hydrick said.

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According to the highway safety office, there were 12 people killed in Georgia wrecks from Nov. 27-30 of last year.

AAA is expecting 47.8 million car travelers this Thanksgiving holiday, which is 2.1 million fewer than 2019. The group is also expecting 2.18 million fewer airplane passengers this holiday period.

“Based on mid-October forecast models, AAA would have expected up to 50 million Americans to travel for Thanksgiving – a drop from 55 million in 2019,” according to a AAA article earlier this month. “However, as the holiday approaches and Americans monitor the public health landscape, including rising COVID-19 positive case numbers, renewed quarantine restrictions and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s travel health notices, AAA expects the actual number of holiday travelers will be even lower.”

The highway safety office is asking for drivers to use a designated driver or use some sort of rideshare/taxi. The office also wanted people to stay off phones, ensure everyone in the car is buckled and avoid speeding by allocating more time for the journey.

"Even though the pandemic is expected to reduce the number of people traveling during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, we all need to practice safety first by making sure everyone in our vehicles, especially small children, are properly retrained by a seatbelt or child safety seat," the highway safety office’s director Allen Poole said in a statement. "We hope no one is ever involved in a traffic crash, but a seat belt offers you and everyone in your vehicle the best protection in the event you are in a crash."

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