Officers looking out for impaired drivers and speeders during Thanksgiving

With nearly 49 million Americans traveling 50 miles or more from home during Thanksgiving, law enforcement authorities in Georgia and Alabama will be looking for impaired drivers and other traffic violations.

AAA is projecting 48.7 million will be traveling during the 102-hour holiday period, starting at 6 p.m. Wednesday and ending at midnight Sunday.

Columbus Police Sgt. Chris Anderson of the Motor Squad Division said officers will have a heightened awareness for impaired drivers along with usual checks for speeders and seat belt violations. There also will be an influx of motorists heading into and out of the city during the holiday week.

“We will be aware of that,” Anderson said. “We want people to be safe and wear their seat belts. “

Col. Mark W. McDonough, commissioner of the the Georgia Department of Public Safety, said troopers will be looking for violations on the roadways.

“Troopers will be focusing on occupant protection violations and keeping a close eye out for impaired drivers and other traffic violations that could potentially cause a crash,” he said. “We want to make holiday travel as safe as possible.”

Last year, Georgia troopers investigated 788 traffic crashes that resulted in nine fatalities and 377 injuries. Troopers also arrested 319 motorist for driving under the influence and issued 9,620 citations and 15,729 warnings.

In Alabama, 10 fatalities were investigated during the five-day Thanksgiving weekend in 2015.

“What should have been a festive occasion was marred by tragedy on Alabama’s roadways,” said Stan Stabler, Secretary of Law Enforcement. “Please, motorists, support the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency and our law enforcement partners from across the state to ensure everyone buckles up, obeys speed limits and avoids driving under the influence or while distracted. We want everyone to be safe and enjoy the long weekend.”

With some stores opening on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday starting early, Anderson said many people will be in a hurry getting to shopping centers.

“Everybody is trying to rush to the same store to get same thing,” he said. “Usually around shopping centers is where you will find most of your traffic.”

Shoppers should allow ample time to get to their destination.