ATLANTA — In recent years, Georgia has always used the holiday season to reinforce the state’s zero-tolerance policy for impaired driving.
However, the end of 2012 has brought a new sense of urgency for Georgia because, for the first time in six years, Georgia is on track to experience an increase in traffic fatalities. If fatalities maintain their current rate, the state will surpass last year’s total of 1,226 deaths on roadways.
The Governor’s Office of Highway Safety is adding a special message to its normal enforcement campaign this time of year. In addition to reminding Georgia motorists that if they don’t drive sober, they’ll get pulled over, GOHS has also launched Operation Safe Holidays to ask drivers to be extra careful on Georgia roads so the state doesn’t reach a milestone of traffic deaths.
“We always take this time of year to remind motorists that impaired driving is against the law 365 days a year in Georgia,” GOHS Director Harris Blackwood said. “And while Operation Zero Tolerance is still effect, we also want to urge everyone to be extra careful as they hit the road this time of year. A great Christmas present for me would be seeing everyone get home safe and sound this holiday season.”
The Associated Press said Wednesday that the Georgia State Patrol reported 17 traffic fatalities in the state from 6 p.m. Dec. 21 to midnight Tuesday.
The holiday season isn’t just dangerous in Georgia. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2,597 people were killed in traffic crashes across the country in December 2010, and 775 of those were killed in crashes involving alcohol-impaired drivers.
While the loss of life is tragic enough, drunken driving also can create financial burden. Statistics show that the average cost of driving under the influence can climb to nearly $10,000.
“The fact is that DUIs are a drain on the state’s resources, the offender’s resources and the resources of any potential victim,” Blackwood said. “It’s imperative that Georgia motorists don’t continue their Christmas partying behind the wheel. Law enforcement all over the state will be cracking down on impaired drivers and they will not hesitate to send you to jail, even if it is Christmas.”
Here are tips to get home safely for Georgians who plan to drink this holiday season:
• Plan a safe way home before the festivities begin;
• Before drinking, designate a sober driver and leave car keys at home;
• If impaired, use a taxi, call a sober friend or family member, or use public transportation;
Georgia’s annual holiday campaign of Operation Zero Tolerance runs through Jan. 1. For more information, contact your local law-enforcement agencies or go to www.gahighwaysafety.org.