(Media release from the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety):
A simple click of a seat belt or life jacket could make all the difference this summer and every day of the year.
The Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, Georgia State Patrol, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, GOHS Traffic Enforcement Networks, and GOHS Highway Enforcement of Aggressive Traffic (H.E.A.T.) are reminding everyone prior to the Memorial Day weekend to buckle their seat belts and click their life jackets during the annual ‘Belts & Jackets’ Safety Tour. AAA is estimating more than one million people will be traveling on the road during the holiday weekend, and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources is expecting to see lakes and waterways busy with boats, personal watercraft and swimmers during the weekend.
State troopers and local law enforcement in Georgia are participating in the national “Click It or Ticket” seat belt enforcement campaign from May 23 through June 5. These officers will be working to save lives by making sure all motor vehicle occupants are properly restrained. Georgia law requires all front seat passengers to wear a seat belt. Children under eight are required to ride in a child safety seat recommended by the manufacturer based on the child’s height and weight, and children over eight are required to wear a seat belt when riding in the front and back seats.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that almost 43,000 people died in traffic crashes in the United States in 2021, which is an increase of more than 10 percent from 2020, when more than 38,800 people died in traffic crashes in the United States. In Georgia, preliminary data shows that more than 1,800 people were reported killed in traffic crashes in the state in 2021. Fifty two percent of the people killed in passenger vehicle crashes in Georgia from 2016 to 2020 were not wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash.
State troopers and local law enforcement officers are not immune to being involved in traffic crashes. Many of those who wear the badge owe their lives to wearing a seat belt in a crash, which is why they enforce Georgia’s seat belt law.
“Seeing lives lost in traffic crashes that could have been prevented is not easy on anyone, especially our first responders,” said Allen Poole, Director of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety. “Our troopers, deputies, and police officers know each time they can get a motorist to buckle their seat belt is potentially one less fatal crash they will have to investigate and one less family to notify that a loved one will not be coming home.”
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 76 people have been killed in motor vehicle crashes during the 78-hour Memorial Day holiday weekend over a five-year period from 2016-2020. The Memorial Day travel period begins at 6:00pm on Friday before the Memorial Day holiday and ends at 11:59pm on Memorial Day.
Even though the national day time seat belt use rate is 90 percent, more than 10,890 people killed in passenger vehicle crashes in the United States in 2020 were not wearing a seat belt and almost 60 percent of those killed in passenger vehicle crashes at night in the United States in 2020 were not wearing seat belts.
One of the problems regarding seat belt use is the misconception certain types of vehicles or riding in the back seat will provide protection in the crash. The 2020 federal crash data shows that 62 percent of truck occupants killed in traffic crashes were not wearing seat belts, compared to 47 percent of passenger vehicle occupants who died in traffic crashes were not buckled.
Almost 60 percent of the people riding in the back seat of passenger vehicles killed in passenger vehicle crashes in the United State in 2020 were not wearing seat belts, compared to 50 percent of those riding in the front seat who were killed in passenger vehicle crashes were unrestrained.
“Troopers and officers will be out in full force actively looking for impaired and careless drivers, said Colonel Chris Wright, Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Safety. “Driving under the influence and distracted driving are unacceptable. We remind drivers to make traffic safety a priority on each trip, every single day. Obey the posted speed limits, don’t text and drive, don’t drive impaired, and always buckle up”.
While state troopers and law enforcement officers will be working to prevent crashes and save lives on the road, Georgia Department of Natural Resources Game Wardens will be doing the same on state waterways this weekend and throughout the year.
Memorial Day weekend is the first time this year many Georgians will be on the water in boats and personal watercraft. Game Wardens will be conducting safety checks and arresting any boater they find that is under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Georgia law requires all boats and personal watercraft to contain enough lifejackets for each passenger, and children under 13 are required to wear a lifejacket at all times they are riding in a watercraft. All personal watercraft occupants are required to wear a lifejacket at all times.
DNR Game Wardens made 243 arrests for boating under the influence last year, which is a 30 percent increase over a five-year period. While the number of BUI arrests increased, the number of boating incidents over the same five-year period decreased by 15 percent. DNR Game Wardens investigated 114 boating incidents in 2021 compared to 135 in 2017. 14 people were killed and 67 were injured in boating incidents last year in Georgia. Sixty nine people drowned in Georgia in 2021.
“We want everyone to enjoy the summer through the many recreation opportunities available in Georgia,” said Colonel Thomas Barnard, director of Georgia DNR’s Law Enforcement Division. “But you must do it safely. The Game Wardens will be out there enforcing all boating laws and specifically focusing on impaired boaters and individuals who operate their boats or personal watercraft in a reckless manner and violate the 100-foot law. We cannot overlook those who jeopardize safety on the waterways.”
GOHS, Georgia State Patrol, GOHS Traffic Enforcement Networks, and GOHS H.E.A.T. units offer these safety reminders for those traveling during the Memorial Day holiday:
- Allow more time for trip due to more vehicles on the road
- Do not try to make up time by speeding
- Wear your seat belt and make sure all passengers are properly restrained
- Program navigation devices before getting on the road
- Take breaks as needed and check phones and other devices during rest stops
- Do not let conversations and other activity inside the vehicle distract you from the road
- Never drive under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs