Columbus avoids July 4 traffic deaths but totals spike statewide

The Columbus area avoided traffic deaths during the July Fourth weekend, but fatalities more than doubled throughout Georgia and Alabama compared with highway deaths in 2013, authorities said.

During the 78-hour holiday period that started at 6 p.m. Thursday and ended at midnight Sunday, the Georgia Department of Public Safety said 11 people died in accidents on streets and highways. The total more than doubled the five fatalities in the state during 2013.

In Alabama, 10 people died in the 237 crashes investigated by the Alabama State Troopers. Last year, troopers recorded only four deaths during the holiday period.

In Georgia, four of the deaths were investigated by the Georgia State Patrol in Calhoun, Villa Rica, Sylvania and Warner Robins. The other fatalities were investigated by metro Atlanta police in Gwinnett, DeKalb and Cobb counties.

Troopers investigated 571 traffic accidents that resulted in 303 injuries. They also arrested 302 people on driving under the influence charges and issued 10,000 citations.

No cause was given for the spike in Georgia traffic deaths although troopers were busy looking on the highways. The fatalities totaled more than last year even though the July 4 holiday was a longer period, 102-hours in 2013 compared with 78-hours this year.

The commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Safety wasn’t available for comment late Tuesday.

Alabama State Troopers said deaths occurred in St. Clair, Coffee, Mobile, Perry, Walker, Monroe, Tuscaloosa and three in Lowndes counties.

The deaths included one pedestrian and two motorcycles that collided. Pedro Montes Oterro, 33, was struck by a 2011 GMC pickup and killed at 8:45 p.m. CDT Sunday just south of Mobile. In the motorcycle collision, Jeffrey Sawyer, 21, and Zackary Smith, 13, both of Greenville, died when the motorcycles they were operating collided on Goldsmith Road about five miles north of Whitehall. Neither was wearing a helmet.

In addition to investigating the traffic deaths, Alabama troopers issued 1,837 citations for speeding, 466 citations for seat belt and child restraint violations and made 68 arrests for driving under the influence. Troopers also helped 242 motorists on the roadways.