With more vehicles hitting the highways for the Fourth of July holiday, Columbus police and other law enforcement agencies will be busy keeping impaired drivers off the roadways.
“We will be out there in force enforcing the laws and ordinances,” said Police Sgt. Bill Gasaway of the Motor Squad Division at the Columbus Police Department.
AAA Travel is projecting that 41 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more during the holiday period that begins at 6 p.m. today and ends at midnight Sunday. That total is a 1.9 percent increase from the 40.3 million people who traveled last year and nearly a 14 percent increase compared to the Memorial Day holiday weekend.
Gasaway said there will be more people traveling to the city to see family and to take part in festivities downtown. Officers will be keeping an eye on the traffic, he said.
“All of them are out there actively looking for any violations, especially people who are drinking,” Gasaway said of officers. “We don’t want them behind the wheel.”
Across the state, the Georgia State Patrol also will be looking for drivers who have had too much to drink.
“Troopers will be watching for impaired drivers, seat belt and child restraint violations and speeders,” Col. Mark W. McDonough, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Safety, said in a statement.
During the holiday last year, troopers investigated 1,150 traffic crashes that resulted in 564 injuries and five fatalities. Troopers also made 359 arrests for driving under the influence.
In Alabama, state troopers investigated four traffic deaths in Randolph, Lee, Chilton and Montgomery counties during the July Fourth holiday last year, said Robyn Litchfield, a spokeswoman for the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency.
She noted that only one of the victims was wearing a seat belt in all four vehicles involved in the deadly crashes. Litchfield said all occupants in a vehicle should be reminded to buckle up.
“Survival is about risk management,” she said. “If risks are predictable, they are preventable. Statistics indicate there is a high probability we all will be involved in a crash at some point, so let’s minimize the risk of death or injury by simply using our seat belts.”
McDonough reminds drivers to exercise caution during holiday travels, even for short trips.
“Obey the posted speed limit, check that everyone is wearing a seat belt and avoid distractions inside your vehicle,” he said. “Careful planning is the key to a safe holiday weekend. Keep safety a priority.”
To reduce the number of impaired drivers on the roadways, the Georgia State Patrol is taking part in Operation Zero Tolerance, a nationwide crackdown on impaired drivers. While no roadchecks are planned in Columbus, troopers will be teaming up with police and sheriff’s deputies across the state for roadchecks during the holiday weekend.