Law enforcement agencies are bracing for a busy holiday travel season on Georgia’s highways.
The Christmas holiday travel period runs five days this year, from 6 p.m. Wednesday, Christmas Eve, to midnight Dec. 28.
The Georgia State Patrol and Crash Reporting Unit of the Georgia Department of Public Safety predict as many as 19 deaths on state roads during the long holiday period. The agencies forecast 2,945 accidents and 1,494 injuries during this period.
Last year, the state recorded 18 deaths in 3,039 crashes over a 102-hour travel period. Eight of those fatalities were the result of an alcohol- or drug-impaired driver.
Thus, state troopers and other law officers statewide will be cracking down on impaired drivers during the holiday period. The Operation Zero Tolerance enforcement campaign will begin today and run through Jan. 4.
The "sobriety checkpoints" will be posted on secondary roads as well as interstate highways.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data for 2002 through 2006 shows nearly 40 percent of fatal crashes in the last two weeks of December involved drunken drivers.
Officers also will enforce safety belt use. Six of the 14 passengers killed in car deaths last year were not wearing seat belts.
Drivers are encouraged to report dangerous or suspected impaired drivers to the nearest Georgia State Patrol post by dialing *477 on their cell phones.
A report from AAA Auto Club South released Wednesday says about 63.9 million Americans are expected to travel at least 50 miles from home during the holiday period, 28 percent of them from the Southeast.
While holiday travel is expected to be down 2 percent from last year nationwide, the Southeast is projected for only a 1 percent drop, with one in four people in the region expected to head out from home during the holidays.
Kevin Bakewell of AAA said those numbers may be higher since the report was based on people’s travel plans in October, and gas prices have fallen since then.