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Despite pandemic, Georgia troopers prepare for busy holiday on the roads

May 21, 2020 Atlanta - Aerial view of I-85 near Druid Hills Road exit on Thursday, May 21, 2020. Memorial Day weekend is here, gas is cheap and the open road beckons. So millions of Americans are planning to É shelter in place. At least for now. That's according to AAA and Gasbuddy, which have surveyed their members about their summer travel plans amid the pandemic. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
May 21, 2020 Atlanta - Aerial view of I-85 near Druid Hills Road exit on Thursday, May 21, 2020. Memorial Day weekend is here, gas is cheap and the open road beckons. So millions of Americans are planning to É shelter in place. At least for now. That's according to AAA and Gasbuddy, which have surveyed their members about their summer travel plans amid the pandemic. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

The Fourth of July holiday is always a popular summer travel time. And despite the coronavirus pandemic, state law enforcement agencies expect many to hit the roads this weekend.

But the celebration of red, white and blue has often been deadly on Georgia roads, and the State Patrol is warning drivers to stay safe.

“While we want everyone to have a great time and be with their family, we want them to be mindful,” the GSP’s Lt. Stephanie Stallings said.

Last year, 26 people were killed in crashes during the Independence Day weekend, according to police. This year’s holiday falls on a Saturday, so for troopers, that means three busy days, beginning Friday night.

RELATED: 26 killed on Georgia roads during holiday weekend, police say

ALSO: Deputy among 15 deaths reported on Georgia roads over holiday weekend

“Despite restraints under COVID-19 guidelines, social distancing, wearing masks and timelines for re-opening states, motorists still plan to travel the roadways in celebration of the beginning of summer and family and friends will be participating in Fourth of July events,” Col. Gary Vowell, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Safety, said. “The Department of Public Safety wants everyone to put safety first by following the posted speed limit, not driving while impaired, making sure all occupants are restrained, keeping your hands off of your cell phones, and adhering to social distancing guidelines, wearing masks when necessary.”

During the Memorial Day weekend in May, crashes killed 15 people on Georgia roads, marking a slight decrease from 2019. Several of those crashes involved motorcycles, according to police.

Americans will take more than 700 million trips from July through September, a drop of more than 14% due to the coronavirus, according to auto club AAA. The majority of those travelers will drive instead of flying, AAA predicted.

 

In 2019, the 26 deaths on state roads over the Fourth of July weekend was more than the past two years combined, according to the State Patrol. But the total number of crashes dropped.

Last year, the Fourth fell on a Thursday, making the holiday a four-day weekend for many.

In 2018, July 4 landed on a Wednesday, so many returned to work the following day. There were five fatalities reported that year on Georgia roads. In 2017, when July 4 was on a Tuesday, nine people were killed in car wrecks.

“State troopers and officers will be on high visibility patrols during the 54-hour holiday period,” Vowell said. “Our goal is to keep the number of traffic crashes, injuries, and fatalities at a minimum, as well as discourage impaired driving.”

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the summer months are the most likely time for deadly crashes involving alcohol. Troopers, who charged 422 with driving under the influence during the 2019 Independence Day weekend, will again be on the lookout for impaired drivers this year.

“Crashes caused by impaired drivers can be prevented. Motorists must take the initiative to plan ahead for their holiday activities by designating a sober driver,” Vowell said.

TIPS FOR SAFE SUMMER DRIVING

Planning is key to staying safe, according to experts.

• Have an emergency kit. Include items such as a first-aid kit, a flashlight, basic repair tools, water and nonperishable food items

• Get your vehicle serviced. Regular maintenance, such as tune-ups, oil changes and tire rotations, will help prevent breakdowns.

• Plan your route. Check ahead for any traffic or weather conditions that could affect your travel. Allow yourself plenty of time.

• Check your tires. Make sure each tire is inflated to the proper pressure. Also check the tread.

• Buckle up. Make sure everyone in the vehicle is buckled up and that car seats are properly installed.

Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration