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Law enforcement urge caution for holiday travelers
Jonathan Jordan of Gainesville fills up his tank at the Shell gas station on E.E. Butler Parkway Thursday. Jordan said he will not be traveling for Memorial Day due to the high gas prices. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

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Summer months are synonymous with weekend getaways, especially when the weekends end with a holiday like Memorial Day.

AAA reports that 31.9 million Americans took to the roads last Memorial Day weekend. This year, that number is expected to reach 32.4 million, nearly 2 percent more.

Agency officials attribute that increase to declining gas prices. Around this time last year, a gallon of regular fuel in Georgia cost around $3.80. Today, that price is closer to $2.25.

Despite gas prices being lower than they were last year, currently they are nearly $1 higher than they were a month ago. The increased cost is putting a damper on travel plans for some residents.

"I was really hurting last year," Gainesville resident Jonathan Jordan said while pumping gas Thursday.

"But it’s still too steep, so I can’t afford to do a lot of traveling right now."

Although gas prices have been creeping up lately, AAA officials say they don’t expect them to hit the $4 mark this summer.

As travelers pack up their vehicles and head out to their favorite destinations, they also should be prepared to encounter more law enforcement officials on the highway.

Around this time every year, Georgia public safety officials launch an initiative known as the "100 Days of H.E.A.T." (Highway Enforcement of Aggressive Traffic). The campaign will coincide with the state "Click It or Ticket" program, urging motorists to buckle up their seat belts, as the law requires.

The goal of the initiative is to cut down on the number of highway accidents and fatalities that occur because of impaired and drivers.

Holiday weekends are particularly dangerous, Georgia State patrol officials report. The department estimates 2,725 traffic crashes with 875 injuries and 18 deaths during the three-day weekend.

"It’s a fact: There are more crashes during the summer travel months, due in part to the increased vacation traffic volume," Bob Dallas, director of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, wrote in a prepared statement.

State officials reported 2,480 traffic accidents, 12 of them fatal, with 721 injuries last Memorial Day weekend.

"Most of these crashes aren’t just random events caused by too many cars navigating through too much congestion. The Georgia State Patrol reports alcohol and the lack of safety belt use were the primary contributing factors in a majority of the fatal crashes they investigated during the Memorial Day Holiday last year," Dallas said.

The Governor’s Office of Highway Safety warns drivers to proceed with caution during the Memorial Day weekend, which runs from 6 p.m. today through midnight Monday.

Georgia Department of Transportation officials are urging drivers to plan ahead for holiday travel delays beginning as early as 1 p.m. today.

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