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Memorial Day weekend busy time for troopers, deputies and police officers

While hundreds of people flocked to Clarks Hill Lake and other places for cookouts and fun on the waterways in McDuffie County over the long Memorial Day weekend, those who work in law enforcement circles were kept busy on the roadways, watching for drunk drivers, speeders and other traffic violations.

There were no fatalities in McDuffie and Warren counties during the 78-hour holiday period. However, several motor vehicle accidents did occur within those two counties, resulting in only a few injuries, but none serious, local authorities said.

Across Georgia, it was a different story. Twelve people were killed during the holiday period, according to officials with the Georgia Department of Public Safety. Another 721 persons were injured, meanwhile, in 2,480 collisions, statewide.

Georgia Department of Public Safety officials had predicted that 19 people would lose their lives over the Memorial Day holiday weekend. Traffic statistics were kept from last Friday at 6 p.m. through midnight Monday.

Troopers from the Georgia State Patrol post in Thomson were among others across the state out in full force during that time.

Deputies from both the McDuffie and Warren counties sheriff's departments, as well as Thomson and Warrenton police departments also were out patrolling and looking for drivers not wearing seat belts, etc.

One of the local Georgia State Patrol troopers assigned to traffic duties for the holiday weekend was Lt. David Cody.

"We attempted a little something different this (past) holiday weekend as compared to previous years," Lt. Cody said.

He explained that Col. Bill Hitchens, who serves as commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Safety, wanted to enforce traffic laws as much as possible along Interstate 20. He also wanted an emphasis on secondary roads, too.

Col. Hitchens noted in a press release that the majority of fatal crashes that occur each year across Georgia happen on state highways, county roads and city streets.

"The same holds true for a holiday period," Col. Hitchens said. "Last year, eight of the 10 traffic deaths occurred on state routes and county roads and two occurred on the interstates."

Lt. Cody said it's the goal of troopers everywhere to keep down traffic mishaps.

"It's all in an effort to cut down on the number of people killed during holiday times," Lt. Cody said. "Saving lives is really what it's all about."

Lt. Cody pointed out that patrol post officials from across the state examined problem areas in an attempt to prevent serious or fatal crashes.

"It's a shift in what we've done in the past across the state," Lt. Cody said. "Each year, we preach the same message: Buckle up, wear your seatbelt; Obey the speed limits; Don't drink and drive; and Follow the rules of the road."

The traffic fatalities this past weekend are two higher than last year when 10 persons were killed during the Memorial Day weekend. It marked the first time since 1979 that the death count had been that low.

The highest number of traffic deaths ever recorded on Georgia highways occurred in 2005 when 32 persons lost their lives.

Col. Hitchens' aim this year, through the efforts of increased patrols by troopers and officers with the Motor Carrier Compliance and Capitol police, was to keep the number of vehicle crashes, injuries and deaths as low in number as possible.

Web posted on Thursday, May 29, 2008

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