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Holiday wrecks may claim 18 lives, state patrol says
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The Georgia State Patrol predicts 18 people will die on Georgia roads during the 78-hour Christmas holiday weekend, a total that likely won’t be helped by heavy rains overnight Christmas Eve.

The holiday period began 6 p.m. Thursday and ends at midnight Sunday.

The Georgia State Patrol and the Crash Reporting Unit at the Georgia Department of Transportation estimate 2,226 wrecks will happen during the holiday, resulting in 976 injuries. Last year, during the longer 102-hour Christmas holiday period, 24 people died in 2,783 wrecks.

The highest number of Christmas holiday period traffic deaths occurred in 1971 when 36 people were killed and the lowest occurred in 1982 and 2002 with five deaths reported.

In an effort to curtail the number of wrecks this holiday season, law enforcement started hitting the roads earlier this month in a crackdown on impaired drivers.

“Now through the first weekend of the new year is when troopers see an increase in the number of vehicles on the roads and an increase in the number of impaired drivers as well,” said Col. Bill Hitchens, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Safety. “Stepped-up patrols will be conducted in an effort to keep the number of traffic crashes as low as possible.”

During last year’s Christmas and New Year holiday periods, nine traffic deaths involved a driver who had been drinking, according to patrol statistics. Additionally, 31 of the 46 people killed during the two holiday periods last year were not wearing their seat belts.

Hitchens reminds drivers to make sure they and all passengers are wearing seat belts and children are properly restrained at all times and on every trip. Also, be sure to designate a sober driver in advance if alcohol consumption will be in your party plans.

As for the rain that pelted travelers and last-minute shoppers Thursday night, showers are expected to taper off today by mid-day.

Wind gusts up to 25 mph will make it seem much colder than the 49-degree high predicted today by the National Weather Service in Peachtree City. Tonight’s overnight low is expected to dip below freezing, at 28 degrees.

Winds should calm down and sun return on Saturday, with a high near 51 and a low of 31.

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