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Officials warn drivers to be safe this weekend
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BPI-Safe Rides

What: Free rides home to impaired drivers, including transporting their insured vehicles
When: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday
Where: Available anywhere in Hall County
Contact: 770-533-1103

Amid poolside barbecues, family vacations and day trips, officials are reminding residents to stay safe on the roads.

For the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, that means encouraging motorists to buckle up as they get out on the roads for holiday travel.

“We know (the Click It or Ticket program is) the first step we can take to save lives during this time of year,” said Harris Blackwood, director of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety. “And we do that at road checks, and we’re also for the first time doing a lot of night seat belt observing.”

Two-thirds of people killed on the roads after 9 p.m. are not wearing seat belts, he added. The campaign began Monday and ends June 5.

Blackwood spoke Friday afternoon at a press conference in Dahlonega, where members of the Appalachian Trail Traffic Enforcement Network were gathered. The network includes law enforcement from mountain counties northeast of and including Lumpkin County.

“That group realizes that one of the prime destinations for the summer season and for Memorial Day weekend is going to be the mountains,” Blackwood said. Traffic counts coming northbound at Ga. 400 and Ga. 60 already were high, he said.

Seat belts saved an estimated 12,713 lives in 2009, according to a news release from the office.

The Department of Public Safety also is encouraging people to wear seat belts.

“This is All-American Buckle-Up Week across the country and state highway patrols and state police agencies are concentrating on getting the message out that safety belt use saves lives,” said Col. Bill Hitchens, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Safety, in a news release.

He added that Memorial Day weekend is traditionally a heavy travel time due to vacations and holiday festivities. That can mean more accidents in the weekend period that began 6 p.m. Friday and ends midnight Monday.

Some 2,143 crashes were recorded across the state during that period last year, including 945 injuries and five fatalities, according to the news release. It was the lowest number of deaths ever recorded over the holiday weekend.

Those deaths, though, occurred on state highways and county and city streets, so Georgia State Patrol troopers will be patrolling those areas along with the interstates, Hitchens said.

To avoid accidents, Hitchens encourages drivers to stay alert, obey the speed limit and don’t drive after drinking.

“Make sure you are alert behind the wheel at all times and immediately make a rest stop the moment you begin to feel drowsy,” Hitchens said. “We want everyone to enjoy the holiday weekend and remember its purpose, but please take the necessary precautions to avoid serious injury or death while you travel.”

One way to stay safe is to take advantage of BPI-Safe Rides offered to impaired drivers in Hall County.

“Driving while drunk isn’t worth the tremendous risk,” said Vivienne Long-Speer, executive director of Bill’s Place, a local nonprofit that runs the BPI-Safe Rides program. “No matter your age, if you’ve had too much holiday spirit, you’d better find a safe and sober ride home or your chances of arrest — or worse — are high.”

The service offers free rides home within Hall County between the hours of 11 a.m. and 11 p.m. Monday. Residents can call 770-533-1103 to get a ride; there is no fee, but donations are accepted. The service also will transport drivers’ insured vehicles to their home.

Long-Speer also advised Memorial Day celebrants to plan a safe way home before the festivities begin, such as designating a sober driver or having a friend or taxi service to call.

One thing making driving a bit easier over the holiday will be the suspension of road and lane closures over the weekend that are due to road construction. The suspensions began 5 a.m. Friday and extends until 10 p.m. Monday, according to the Department of Transportation.

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