The Georgia State Patrol reports 17 people were killed in traffic crashes over the 120-hour Christmas holiday travel period that began last Friday at 6 p.m. and ended midnight Tuesday. That’s up from only one fatality during the same time period last year.
Though none of the fatalities occurred in Cherokee, local law enforcement will continue monitoring the roads and provide extra assistance to make sure residents safely ring in the New Year.
Lt. Jay Baker, spokesman for the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office, said the agency developed a plan to conduct safety checkpoints at different locations across Cherokee, focusing on the northern and southern portions of the county.
“Those checkpoints will take place as scheduled,” Baker said.
Baker said when units are not actively participating in the checkpoints, they will be patrolling other areas of the county looking for impaired drivers and seat belt infractions.
“There is always an increased focus on impaired drivers during the holidays, especially New Year’s Eve,” Baker said. “That, with the increased number of motorists on the roadways, is always a concern.”
The Woodstock Police Department will once again offer a free ride home from local bars during its Operation Safe Ride event on New Year’s Eve.
“Any person in need of a ride must be at an establishment within the incorporated limits of Woodstock, must live a reasonable distance within Woodstock and must not have any money to call a taxi,” Brittany Duncan, spokeswoman for WPD, said Wednesday.
Duncan said the department is working with Neese Towing, who will offer to tow vehicles to their owner’s homes free of charge.
In its fifth year, Operation Safe Ride has provided over 300 rides home to those who felt it was unsafe to drive through the use of its 15-passenger van driven by two police officers.
“The main reason for this operation is to ensure that residents can celebrate the holiday, but not endanger the lives of others by driving impaired” said Lt. Troy Brazie, special operations group commander. “We have fun interacting with all of the residents and meeting new people. It is a way for us to get out in the community.”
Anyone interested in a ride home from a Woodstock establishment on New Year’s Eve can call (678) 614-9104 at any time that night.
Col. Mark McDonough, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Safety, said state troopers will continue patrolling over New Year’s Eve with enforcement emphasis on impaired drivers, unrestrained drivers and passengers and drivers exceeding the speed limit.
McDonough said travelers should plan carefully by checking tire pressure, making sure windshield wiper blades are not cracked and checking all headlights, brake lights, turn signals and tag lights are working, as well as the vehicle’s fluid levels.
“Before leaving on the trip, make sure everyone is properly restrained, take frequent rest stops along the way, and don’t speed,” McDonough said.
The New Year’s holiday period begins Friday at 6 p.m. and ends Tuesday night.
During last year’s New Year’s holiday period, the state police reported investigating 296 traffic crashes that resulted in 172 injuries and seven deaths. Additionally, 262 people were arrested for driving under the influence.