(Media release from the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety):
Whether traveling on the road or the water, make sure the trip or outing starts with the click of a seat belt or life jacket. The Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, Georgia State Patrol, and Georgia Department of Natural Resources are delivering their annual “Belts & Jackets” safety message today at Lake Lanier in Buford, Lake Oliver in Columbus, and Lake Blackshear at Veteran’s State Park near Cordele.
State troopers, sheriff’s deputies, and police officers around the state remind everyone before the start of the Memorial Day Holiday weekend to start every trip by buckling their seat belt and Georgia Department of Natural Resources Game Wardens want everyone to remember to click their life jacket when boating, swimming, or riding personal watercraft.
State troopers and local law enforcement in Georgia are participating in the national “Click It or Ticket” seat belt enforcement campaign from May 15 through June 4. 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 between the ages of 8 and 15 are required to wear a seat belt when riding in the front and back seats.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 11,800 people killed in vehicle crashes in the United States in 2021 were not wearing seat belts and 60 percent of young adults (18-34) were not wearing seat belts. In Georgia, 56 percent of the people killed in passenger vehicle crashes in 2021 were not wearing seat belts.
Federal crash data shows a higher percentage of unrestrained vehicle occupant fatalities happen at night. According to NHTSA Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) data, 57 percent of people who were killed in crashes during nighttime hours were not wearing seat belts in the United States in 2021 compared to 43 percent of those who were killed in crashes during daytime hours in the U.S. in 2021 were not buckled.
“Mistakes will happen everyday on the road and wearing a seat belt offers the best protection in the event of a traffic crash,” said Allen Poole, Director of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety. “Taking a few seconds to click a seat belt could lead to a lifetime of memories because vehicles can be repaired or replaced but family and friends who are killed in a traffic crash are lost forever.”
According to preliminary crash data, 15 people died in crashes during the 2022 Memorial Day Holiday weekend in Georgia and 43 percent of those who were killed in vehicle crashes in the state during last year’s holiday weekend were not wearing seat belts. Over the last five years, 30 percent of the people killed in vehicle crashes in Georgia during the Memorial Day Holiday weekend were not wearing seat belts.
According to NHTSA, almost one-third of the fatal crashes during the Memorial Day Holiday weekend in Georgia from 2017 to 2021 involved a drunk driver and more than 70 percent of the fatal drunk driving crashes during Memorial Day Holiday weekend in the state involved a driver whose Blood-Alcohol Concentration (BAC) level was more than double the state’s legal limit of .08.
The Georgia State Patrol and Georgia Motor Carrier and Compliance Division will be working throughout the extended holiday weekend to prevent crashes through the enforcement of speed, hands-free, DUI, seat belt, and all traffic laws. State troopers issued almost 11,000 citations and warnings and made 330 DUI arrests during the 78-hour Memorial Day holiday weekend last year.
“We want everyone to enjoy their holiday weekend and our goal is for everyone to reach their destination safely,” Colonel Christopher Wright, Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Safety said. “Speeding and reckless drivers not only endanger themselves but everyone on the road and that is why troopers and local law enforcement will be working to prevent crashes and save lives through the enforcement of all traffic laws.”
Georgia Department of Natural Resources Game Wardens have already investigated four boating fatalities, responded to 12 drownings this year, and have made 18 arrests for Boating Under the Influence. In 2022, DNR Game Wardens investigated 23 boating fatalities, responded to 57 drownings, and made 287 BUI arrests as the legal BAC limit for boat and personal watercraft operators in Georgia is also.08.
During the Memorial Day weekend, 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.
“I urge everyone to always put safety first, whether behind the wheel of a vehicle or vessel,” said Col. Thomas Barnard, director of Georgia DNR’s Law Enforcement Division. “Wear a life jacket and be sure your children do. Don’t drive distracted or under the influence of alcohol or drugs. And, follow navigation and traffic rules and laws. Just a few simple acts can mean the difference between an enjoyable, safe day and a life-altering, tragic day.”
GOHS, Georgia State Patrol, GOHS Traffic Enforcement Networks, and GOHS HIghway Enforcement of Aggressive Traffic (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