(ATLANTA)—The Georgia State Patrol is warning drivers across the state to be prepared for sobriety checkpoints and concentrated patrols this weekend as we usher in 2006.  State Troopers and officers with the Motor Carrier Compliance and Capitol Police divisions of the Georgia Department of Public Safety will be conducting high visibility patrols throughout the holiday weekend that target alcohol impaired drivers.

            Colonel Bill Hitchens, Georgia State Patrol Commander, said troopers and DPS officers will not hesitate to arrest an impaired driver and impound their vehicle.   “It is a message that bears repeating – if alcohol will be in your holiday celebrations, make sure you have appointed a designated driver,” he said.  “The dangers an impaired driver poses on the state’s roads are too great of a risk to take at any time and those dangers are compounded on New Year’s Eve.”  He said troopers often encounter people drinking on New Year’s Eve who do not normally drink during the year and don’t know their limit.  Then they attempt to operate a motor vehicle.


            In the Metro Atlanta area, the GSP Nighthawks will also be patrolling during the holiday period.  The Nighthawk DUI Task Force is a 10-member group of Georgia State Troopers who have received advanced DUI enforcement training.  The Task Force is funded with a grant from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and provided to the Georgia State Patrol through the Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety.


            The New Year’s holiday travel period begins Friday, December 30 at 6 p.m. and continues until midnight Monday, January 2, 2006.  Traffic predictions for the 78-hour holiday period are for 1,794 traffic crashes, 780 injuries and 15 traffic fatalities.  Last New Year’s, 13 people died in traffic crashes on Georgia roads during a 54-hour period.  There were 1,277 crashes and 650 injuries.


            Colonel Hitchens also cautions drivers who will be traveling this holiday weekend to make sure seat belts are buckled before the trip begins and to wear your seat belt at all times, no matter how short the trip.  “Wearing your seat belt and making sure children are properly restrained are the best preventative measures people can take to increase everyone’s chances of surviving a motor vehicle crash,” Colonel Hitchens said.  “Sadly, despite the warnings, there will be impaired drivers who will cause traffic crashes on the roads this weekend,” he said. 


Colonel Hitchens reminds motorists who encounter a suspected impaired driver to report the vehicle to the nearest Georgia State Patrol post by calling Star G-S-P (*477) on their cell phone.  “Drivers should remain alert for the potential of encountering an impaired driver and be prepared to take evasive action.”