Georgia law enforcement stressing summer safety

lfabian@macon.comMay 23, 2014 

Georgia's Department of Natural Resources points out the dangers on lakes and rivers as Memorial Day kicks off the summer recreation season. Video by Liz Fabian.

THETELEGRAPHMIDGA

Bibb County Sheriff David Davis doesn’t have to look at the thermometer to know summer is approaching.

“Our call volume starts going up,” said Davis, whose office is joining public safety colleagues from around the state in promoting seasonal safety.

“Our people are going to be out,” he said. “It’s been a long, cool winter and Memorial Day signifies the beginning of summer.”

The unofficial summer kickoff also is not lost on the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, which toured a half-dozen communities this week to remind Georgians of their personal role in avoiding accidents and injuries.

“We want them to be safe. We want to bring down the number of fatalities on Georgia roads,” said Harris Blackwood, director of the highway safety office.

The state is already seeing a 22 percent reduction in traffic fatalities this year over last.

By May 22, 359 people had died on Georgia roads, down from 460 during the same time period in 2013.

“We want to keep that momentum going into the summer season, and we want to make sure everyone is as safe as possible,” Blackwood said.

The Georgia State Patrol will boost patrols during the 100 Days of Summer H.E.A.T. initiative through Labor Day and will be watching for seat belt violators during the Memorial Day Click It or Ticket campaign.

Col. Mark McDonough, the Georgia Public Safety commissioner, said a third of traffic fatalities involve alcohol.

“You have a responsibility if you’re driving an automobile to make sure you are not driving under the influence,” McDonough said.

He also encourages motorists to wear their seat belts and slow down.

For the first time in five years, unrestrained crash deaths have gone up nationwide.

In 2012, 10,335 people were killed while not wearing seat belts, according to a highway safety news release.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources also is gearing up for the start of the summer boating season.

Rangers have been trained to detect those boating under the influence.

“It’s a major contributor nationwide to fatalities in boating accidents,” said Lt. Col. Jeff Weaver, assistant director of DNR’s law enforcement division. “That’s obviously one of our main focuses that keeps everybody safe.”

Families should pay particular attention to river currents and other hazards.

“Go to the rivers, lakes, enjoy it. It’s a great place to be, but take some responsibility,” Weaver said.

“Wear your life jacket when you’re in and around the water. That seems simple, but that’s one thing I can say that will definitely save your life.”

The tranquility of the surface of the water can mask the dangers below.

“There’s undertows, there’s logs, there’s rocks. And as the water goes across these objects in the water, they create currents and create eddies and they create dangers,” Weaver said.

“If you’re inexperienced on rivers, do not take any risks.”

While most folks are familiar with safety suggestions, Blackwood said these promotional campaigns are useful reminders.

“I think people begin to realize, ‘Hey, the cops are out there and they’re going to write tickets. ... If I’m caught DUI, I’m going to jail,’ ’’ he said. “There’s serious consequences to some of these behaviors.”

To contact writer Liz Fabian, call 744-4303.

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