Buckle Seat Belts and Life Jackets Every Time

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State and local law enforcement issue important safety reminder prior
to Memorial Day Holiday Weekend

(ATLANTA) Don’t risk it!  Click seat belts and life jackets every time.  The Governor’s Office of Highway Safety (GOHS), Georgia State Patrol, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, and GOHS Traffic Enforcement Networks are asking everyone at the start of summer to buckle their seat belts before every trip and to wear a life jacket when boating or swimming.

GOHS Director Allen Poole, Georgia Department of Public Safety Commissioner Colonel Williams W. Hitchens, III and Georgia Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Division Director Colonel Mike England will offer important travel, boating and swimming safety messages during the annual “Belts & Jackets” Safety Tour on Thursday, May 23.  The tour will stop at Lake Lanier in Buford, Lake Oliver in Columbus, and Lake Blackshear near Cordele.

State troopers and local law enforcement in Georgia are participating in the national “Click It or Ticket” seat belt enforcement campaign from May 20th through June 2nd. 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 and children between ages of 8 and 17 to wear a seat belt no matter where they are riding in a vehicle.  Children under eight are required to ride in a child safety seat recommended by the manufacturer based on the child’s height and weight.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 58 percent of the 1,092 people killed in passenger vehicle crashes in Georgia in 2022 were not wearing seat belts and the state’s annual daytime observed front-seat seat belt use rate has fallen below 90 percent for the last two years.  In five years, Georgia’s daytime observed front-seat seat belt use rate has fallen to 87.6 percent in 2023 from 95.9 percent in 2019.

According to the NHTSA Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), 87 people have been killed in crashes during the 78-hour Memorial Day holiday weekend in Georgia from 2018 through 2022.  FARS crash data shows that 35 percent of the 70 people killed in passenger vehicle crashes during the Memorial Day Holiday weekend during this five-year period were not wearing seat belts compared to 54 percent of the 2,890 people killed in passenger vehicle crashes in the state between 2018 and 2022.

“The crash data shows the coordinated effort between our state and local partners is saving lives on our roads during the Memorial Day Holiday weekend, but one life lost in a traffic crash is one too many and we will keep working to lower that number to zero,” said Allen Poole, Director of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety. “We all make mistakes virtually every day in our life and wearing a seat belt offers the best protection when a mistake on the road results in a crash.”

State troopers and local law enforcement officers will be stepping up enforcement of all traffic laws including speeding, distracted driving, drunk and drugged driving and failure to wear a seat belt during the 78-hour holiday weekend, which begins with another round of the Georgia State Patrol’s “Operation Observation” on Friday, May 24th.   Through a GOHS grant, State Troopers conduct concentrated patrols enforcing all traffic laws during five heavily traveled holiday periods this year.

State troopers investigated 534 crashes and issued more than 15,500 citations and warnings during the 2023 Memorial Day holiday weekend.  Troopers arrested 393 people for driving under the influence and issued 6,792 citations for speeding and 1,690 citations for failure to comply with Georgia’s seat belt law during last year’s Memorial Day Holiday weekend.

“We encourage everyone to enjoy time with their friends and families over the holiday period, but please remember to put safety first by driving at safe speeds, being a courteous driver and giving yourself plenty of time to reach your destination,” Colonel William W. Hitchens, III, Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Safety said.  “As you are traveling, remember to always wear your seat belt and make sure all children in the vehicle are properly restrained.  Please leave plenty of space between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you so that you have plenty of time to react.”

This is National Boating Safety Week, and many Georgians are looking forward to being on the water for the first time this year during the holiday weekend.  The Georgia Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Division reminds all boat and watercraft operators that state 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.

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 prohibits anyone from operating a motor vehicle, boat or personal watercraft with a Blood-Alcohol Concentration (BAC) level of .08 or higher.

Georgia Department of Natural Resources Game Wardens have already investigated 22 drownings in 2024 and 53 people drowned in the state in 2023.  Game Wardens also investigated 136 boating incidents that killed 20 people last year.

“Our Game Wardens will be enforcing all boating laws this weekend and all summer, but they will especially be looking for operators who are impaired,” stated Colonel Mike England, director of the Georgia DNR Law Enforcement Division. “Our goal is for everyone to safely enjoy their vacations and recreation activities, whether traveling on the highways or the waterways.”

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 your trip due to traffic
  • 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
  • Never drive under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs