More Fourth of July coverage:
The Fourth of July holiday travel period began Thursday evening, and officials predict higher crash rates as the weekend persists.
The Governor’s Office of Highway Safety estimates more than 2,000 crashes will result in 18 fatalities during this year’s holiday weekend, which began Thursday at 6 p.m. and lasts through midnight Sunday.
Last year’s Fourth of July holiday resulted in 15 traffic deaths statewide.
An accident Thursday afternoon on Dawsonville Highway started things early in Dawson County.
The incident between a Ford F-350 and 2003 Chevy S-10 truck resulted in two injuries, which Lt. Tony Wooten of the Dawson County Sheriff’s Office said were not life threatening.
Wooten said the accident was not related to holiday travel, but he cautioned drivers heading out this weekend.
“There’s more people on the road,” he said. “We just ask that people give themselves plenty of time to get where they’re going and take more precautions.”
Amber Sorrells, senior dispatcher for Georgia State Patrol Troop B, which includes state patrol posts in Gainesville, Toccoa, Blue Ridge, Athens and Cumming, said she hasn’t seen a spike in wrecks yet.
“So far, I don’t think that the holiday is playing a role in the toll,” Sorrells said. She said Friday’s rain was probably more of a factor than the holiday travel.
As of Friday afternoon, the statewide count had 504 crashes and one fatality, according to the Georgia Department of Public Safety website.
Sgt. Shawn Welsh of the Gainesville Police Department said the department hadn’t seen a spike in accidents as of Friday afternoon, but he said the accident count would probably begin to pick up Friday evening. He said nighttime would probably be the most dangerous time to drive.
But Welsh said the department is prepared for the holiday weekend.
“We will have the traffic unit out along with other units patrolling the areas that are going to be shooting the fireworks,” Welsh said. “We’re definitely going to get out and try to deter drinking and driving and try to keep our streets safe for people who want to visit Gainesville.”
The number of Hall County officers on the roads also will increase for the holiday weekend, and Hall County sheriff’s officials ask that people be especially careful in areas where Fourth of July events take place.
The sheriff’s office will direct traffic for the Laurel Park fireworks Sunday night, and drivers are asked to use Clarks Bridge Road as an alternate route to avoid delays.
Welsh said this weekend’s drivers need to stay alert and pay attention to the roads as they travel. He also said there would be zero tolerance for drunken driving.
“I ask people to be considerate of others that have family and small children going out to these (Fourth of July) events, especially if they’re consuming alcohol,” Welsh said. “They need to keep in mind there’s going to be a lot of families out on the road bringing their kids and loved ones out to see these fireworks.”