(ATLANTA) – The Georgia State Patrol is reminding motorists to designate a sober driver and not let friends drive drunk in preparation for the 102-hour New Year’s holiday travel period.  Colonel Bill Hitchens, Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Safety, said the New Year’s holiday travel period begins New Year’s Eve at 6 p.m. and ends at midnight Sunday, January 4, 2009.

Traffic estimates for the holiday period from the Georgia State Patrol and the Crash Reporting Unit at the Georgia Department of Transportation are for 3,008 traffic crashes, 1,350 injuries, and 20 traffic fatalities across the state.  During the last New Year’s holiday travel period, which was also 102 hours long, there were 3,108 traffic crashes, 1,250 injuries, and 22 traffic deaths recorded.

Colonel Hitchens said speed, the lack of seat belt use, and people driving while impaired continue to be the primary contributing factors to fatal holiday period traffic crashes, and the majority of the fatal crashes occur on the secondary roads.  He said Georgia State Troopers will be patrolling state highways in addition to the interstate system and county roads.  “Last year, 12 of the 22 traffic deaths occurred on county roads while four each occurred on state routes and city streets,” Colonel Hitchens noted.  “Only two deaths were recorded on an interstate highway in Georgia.”

The Commissioner said in addition to concentrated patrols during the holiday period, troopers will also be conducting sobriety checkpoints.  “While only two of the traffic deaths last year were alcohol related, New Year’s is traditionally associated with festivities that often involve the consumption of alcoholic beverages,” he said, “and tragically that leads to an increase in the number of impaired drivers on our roads.”  Colonel Hitchens again calls on motorists to take extra measures to help reduce the number of traffic deaths on the state’s roads.  “Remember to plan ahead for your holiday parties and plan non-alcoholic beverages for designated drivers,” Colonel Hitchens said.  “Everyone can benefit by remembering to not let friends drive drunk.”  He reminded party hosts to arrange alternate transportation for impaired guests by calling a taxi, friend or family member to get your guest home safely.

The holiday weekend will also bring to a close the national “Drunk Driving. Over the Limit. Under Arrest.” Campaign.  Since December 19, Georgia State Troopers and Department of Public Safety Officers from the Motor Carrier Compliance and Capitol Police divisions have been working in concert with law enforcement officers across the nation in a crackdown on impaired drivers.  Colonel Hitchens reminds motorists to report impaired drivers to the nearest Georgia State Patrol post by calling Star G-S-P (*477) on a cell phone.  Additionally, motorists are reminded of Georgia’s “Steer It and Clear It” law that requires drivers involved in crashes with no apparent serious personal injury or death to move the vehicles out of the traffic lanes if they are drivable.

Over the past five New Year’s holiday travel periods, there have been 11,715 traffic crashes reported, with 4,616 injuries, and 74 traffic fatalities.  On average, Georgia has recorded one traffic death every 5.6 holiday hour.  The highest number of traffic deaths recorded over a New Year’s holiday travel period occurred in 1981 and 1987 when 23 fatalities occurred and the lowest was three in 1958.  The holiday period traffic count will be updated every six hours at the Georgia Department of Public Safety website:  http://dps.georgia.gov