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Officials expect heavy Thanksgiving holiday traffic
Holiday travel period begins today at 6 p.m.; GSP predicts as many as 3,325 crashes
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    Lower gas prices mean more traveling, and the possibility of more accidents, said Georgia State Patrol Post 45 Cpl. Robert Balkcom.
    “We’ll be doing more road checks, patrolling the main roads and interstate,” he said. “We think it’s going to be very heavy traffic due to low gas prices” and the holiday season.
    He said so far, traffic has yet to show an increase, but speeding motorists seem to be on the rise since gas prices dropped.
    With gasoline prices across Georgia well below the national average, the Georgia State Patrol is preparing for the heaviest holiday travel period so far this year, said. Col. Bill Hitchens, Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Safety.
    The official Thanksgiving holiday period begins at 6 p.m. this evening and ends at midnight Sunday, November 30.
   Last year in Georgia, there were 3,057 traffic crashes and 1,190 injuries reported in the 102-hour holiday period, Balkcom said.  During the period, 21 fatal crashes were reported which resulted in 27 traffic deaths.
    This year, the Georgia State Patrol estimates as many as 3,325 crashes, 950 injuries, and 19 fatalities could occur on Georgia roads, he said.
   “Our troopers and officers will be keeping a close watch for impaired drivers, drivers speeding, as well as motorists not wearing seat belts or properly restraining children,” Hitchens said.  “Most fatal crashes during a holiday period in Georgia involve an alcohol impaired driver, speed, or the person killed not utilizing seat belts.”
    Eight of those 27 traffic deaths last year  involved an alcohol or drug impaired driver while 13 of the traffic fatalities were due to not using seat belts or other safety equipment, he said. 
    Eleven of those traffic deaths were recorded on state highways; nine on county roads, five on the interstates, and two on city streets.
    Troopers will be everywhere during this holiday season, not just on main roads, he said.
   Georgia State Troopers will be heavily patrolling the secondary roads as well as the interstates throughout the holiday period.  “The traffic crash data bears out the importance that we balance our patrols between the interstates and the secondary roads,” he said.
    Plans for the holiday period include concentrated patrols, high visibility patrols, and road checks.  “Our goal is to make motor vehicle travel as safe as possible, no matter where you go in our state,” he said.
   State Troopers urge drivers to plan their travels well in advance and to also consider travel times.  “Careful planning includes allowing plenty of time to reach your destination and anticipating travel delays,” Colonel Hitchens said.  “If alcohol will be part of your holiday activities, plan ahead and designate a sober driver.”
     The highest number of traffic deaths ever recorded for the Thanksgiving holiday period was 43 in 1969 and the lowest was four in 1949.  During the past six years in Georgia, 111 people have been killed in traffic crashes during Thanksgiving holiday periods with 7,365 injuries reported in 18,823 traffic crashes.
   The holiday traffic count will again be updated throughout the holiday weekend at the Georgia Department of Public Safety Web site    

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