Plan ahead: Thanksgiving weekend typically deadly on Georgia roads

Experts advise planning ahead to stay safe during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
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Experts advise planning ahead to stay safe during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

In 2020, 24 people died and 370 were injured in wrecks on Georgia roads during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, according to state law enforcement agencies.

The death toll doubled from 2019, when 12 were killed during the same period, which runs from Wednesday evening through Sunday night. This year, even more people are planning to travel, according to the AAA motor group.

With planning and patience, road trips can be safe during the holiday season. Law enforcement agencies urge travelers to do their part.

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“Troopers and motor carrier officers will be patrolling interstates and secondary roads throughout the state to reduce traffic crashes, and deter unsafe driving behaviors such as speeding, distracted driving, following too closely, and driving while impaired,” Col. Chris C. Wright, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Safety, said in a statement. “Our primary focus is to make the roadways safer this holiday period for our residents and guests.”

From 2014 to 2020, 116 people died in crashes on Georgia roads during the Thanksgiving holiday. In many of those crashes, alcohol and speed were contributing factors, according to investigators. During the Labor Day weekend in September, crashes killed 16 on state roads, including four teenagers.

Although the pandemic halted travel for many, the number of Thanksgiving travelers looks to increase nationally by 13% this year. In Georgia, AAA predicts nearly 1.6 million people will travel, up 12% from 2020.

“It’s beginning to look more like a normal holiday travel season, compared to what we saw last year,” said Debbie Haas, vice president of travel for AAA. “Now that U.S. borders are open, vaccinations are readily available, and new health and safety guidelines are in place, travel is once again high on the list for Americans who are ready to reunite with their loved ones for the holidays.”

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According to the transportation analytics company INRIX, travelers should avoid hitting the road during peak hours, including Wednesday from noon to 8 p.m. On Thursday through Sunday, expect the most drivers on the road in the afternoon hours.

“Motorists should make sure their vehicle is ready for the road, travel with patience, allow plenty of time to reach their destinations, obey the posted speed limit, ensure every occupant is properly restrained in their vehicle, and never drive distracted or impaired,” Wright said.


STAY SAFE ON THE ROADS

1. Obey the posted speed limit

2. Do not drive impaired. Consider a rideshare service or designate a sober driver.

3. Buckle up. Make sure children are properly restrained, too.

4. Pay attention. Limit distractions and remain hands-free of phones.

5. Plan your trip. Minimize stops and pack an emergency roadside kit.

Source: Georgia Department of Public Safety

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