Agencies prepare for holiday weekend traffic
by By Jessica Loeding
Jul 01, 2011 | 3240 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Bartow County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Blake Bowden radios dispatch concerning an intoxicated driver during a road-check Thursday night on Sandtown Road. The man was arrested at the scene after a short chase just minutes into the BCSO operation. The BCSO, along with other agencies, will operate concentrated patrols during the Fourth of July holiday weekend. JESSICA LOEDING/The Daily Tribune News
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The Bartow County Sheriff's Office got an early start on holiday traffic enforcement, setting up a road-check on Sandtown Road in Acworth and Shake Rag and Woody roads in Adairsville Thursday evening.

The department joins the Georgia State Patrol and smaller agencies in searching for motorists under the influence, without properly restrained children and other infractions ahead of the three-day holiday weekend.

The 78-hour July Fourth holiday travel period begins today at 6 p.m. and ends at midnight Monday. Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Safety Col. Bill Hitchens said troopers will be watching for impaired drivers, speeders and people not using safety belts during holiday patrols.

BCSO Capt. Lee Fletcher echoed Hitchens statement.

"We will have concentrated patrols all over the county [this weekend]," Fletcher said, adding that, like Thursday, the focus would be on impaired drivers, unrestrained children, unlicensed drivers and other violations.

The sheriff's office sees an increase in traffic stops and intoxicated drivers during holiday weekends, and Fletcher said the Fourth of July will be no exception.

"Yes, we see an increase, alcohol use increases," he said. "The number of incidents we respond to increases."

Last year, the Georgia Department of Transportation's Crash Reporting Unit counted 1,829 traffic crashes, 834 injuries and 11 traffic deaths during the July Fourth holiday travel period. The Georgia State Patrol investigated 300 of the traffic crashes that covered a Thursday evening through Sunday night time period. Troopers reported nine traffic deaths and 209 injuries in the crashes they investigated. Two of the fatal crashes were alcohol related and three of the fatal crash victims in passenger cars or pickup trucks were not wearing a safety belt. The highest number of July Fourth holiday traffic fatalities occurred in 1972 when 34 people were killed in traffic crashes. The lowest occurred in 1962 and 1984 when two people were killed.

Hitchens said troopers and officers with the department's Motor Carrier Compliance Division will be patrolling during the holiday weekend with a goal of keeping the holiday traffic count as low as possible.

"Our troopers and MCCD officers will be concentrating on the most common violations identified as contributing factors in fatal traffic crashes," he said.

MCCD was on hand during Thursday's road-check, handling a possibly intoxicated vehicle-carrier driver just after 9 p.m.

Operation Zero Tolerance, Georgia's high-visibility impaired driving enforcement program, is also continuing this week across Georgia in conjunction with the nationwide mobilization on drunk driving. Troopers and MCCD officers, along with local police and sheriffs' deputies, work in a concentrated effort to keep Georgia roads as safe as possible by removing impaired drivers from behind the wheel before they are involved in a traffic crash. Enforcement personnel will be conducting safety checks and concentrated patrols across the state now through the end of the holiday period.

Lt. David Prentiss, who was stationed at the Adairsville location, said about 10:30 p.m. deputies had written citations and warnings, but had made no arrests.

Information on citations from the Acworth location were not available at press time. BCSO Investigator Sgt. Jonathan Rogers said five arrests had been made at 11 p.m.

The July Fourth holiday weekend is also an Operation C.A.R.E. weekend. Operation C.A.R.E., or Combined Accident Reduction Effort, encourages safe driving through high visibility enforcement of traffic laws and public education efforts. The program among state highway patrols and state police agencies is now in its 34th year and is sponsored by the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

Hitchens also reminds drivers who will be transporting children this weekend to make sure everyone is properly restrained. He noted that a change in Georgia's Booster Seat Law is effective today and requires children under the age of 8 to be secured in an approved car seat or booster seat.

BCSO Deputy Megan Kincer recently completed training, along with deputies Marty Teems and Vaughn Holcomb, on the new law and child-seat safety.

Kincer said even if children have been out of a booster seat for a year or more, mothers will need to once again install a seat and ensure children are properly restrained.

The law works to keep children buckled in with proper seat belt placement, Kincer said. As a mom, she said she was surprised to learn she had not been buckling up her 3-year-old properly.

"I was amazed to learn I had been doing it wrong," she said.

Fletcher said the BCSO will issue warnings under the new guidelines for a minimum of 30 days. Drivers can be ticketed for violations of the booster seat law.

More information on the legislation is available at www.gahighwaysafety.org.