ALBANY — Fourteen people in Georgia, including two in southwest Georgia, lost their lives in traffic crashes over the just-completed 54-hour Christmas holiday travel period, according to reports by the Georgia Department of Public Safety.
That number was down significantly from the Christmas 2018 travel period, when 26 people were killed on Georgia roadways. The 2018 travel period, however, was more than twice as long, covering 126 hours from 6 p.m. Dec. 21, a Friday, until midnight on Dec. 26, a Wednesday.
This year’s Christmas travel period, as recognized by the state’s DPS, opened at 6 p.m. Tuesday and ended Thursday night at midnight.
The two southwest Georgia deaths were reported by Georgia State Patrol Post 14 in Colquitt, which covers Decatur, Early, Miller and Seminole counties. Post 14 is part of GSP Troop G that includes posts in Albany, Americus and Thomasville.
Four south-central Georgia traffic fatalities also were reported, three of which were investigated by GSP Post 36 in Douglas. Post 36, which covers Atkinson, Ben Hill, Coffee and Irwin counties, is in Troop H that includes Tifton and Valdosta posts. The fourth death in that region was investigated by Valdosta police.
In all, eight fatal crashes were investigated by state troopers. The others were worked by troopers with GSP posts based in Dublin, Grovetown and Manchester.
In addition to Valdosta PD, four other local law enforcement agencies investigated five traffic deaths. Atlanta police worked two, with police officers in Cobb County, DeKalb County and Union City each investigating one.
Across Georgia, state troopers investigated 207 traffic crashes that resulted in 102 injuries during the Christmas period. GSP and other DPS officers arrested 124 people for driving under the influence (DUI), and they issued 5,333 citations and 8,222 warnings.
Those numbers also are down sharply from last year. Statewide during Christmas 2018, state troopers investigated 700 traffic crashes that resulted in 333 injuries. In addition to the crash investigations, 285 people were arrested for DUI. Overall, troopers wrote 9,978 citations and issued 15,888 warnings.
Georgia is halfway through the year-end travel period that includes Christmas and New Year’s. AAA, which has forecast holiday travel patterns for two decades, has projected that this year-end holiday period, which it defines as Dec. 21-Jan. 1, will see a record 115.6 million Americans traveling at least 50 miles from home during the 12 days. Of those, a whopping 104 million — also a record — will drive to their destinations.
“Travelers should be getting used to crowded highways and airports, as this marks the eighth straight year of new record-high travel volumes for the year-end holidays,” Paula Twidale, vice president of AAA Travel, said when the auto group’s projections were announced.
Georgia roads, which were expected to be at their most congested the day after Christmas, were projected to accommodate nearly 3.1 million travelers from Dec. 21 until the end of New Year’s Day. In metro Atlanta, peak congestion was to have taken place Thursday in a two-hour window that started at 4:30 p.m.
GSP Colquitt also handled a fatal wreck last year during the Christmas holiday travel period, one of the 14 fatalities worked during Christmas 2018 by Georgia state troopers. It was the only deadly wreck that occurred in southwest Georgia.
The remaining dozen were investigated by local authorities in Atlanta, Gwinnett County, Columbia County, DeKalb County, Clayton County, Savannah, Lawrenceville, Dade County and Floyd County.
Still to come is the New Year’s travel period that straddles the end of 2019 and the start of 2020. Georgia DPS defines that holiday as the 30 hours from 6 p.m Tuesday — New Year’s Eve — until midnight Wednesday, New Year’s Night.
“It is the primary focus of state troopers and officers to keep a vigilant eye out for motorists breaking state traffic laws and exercising bad driving habits that could potentially cause serious injuries or fatal crashes,” Col. Mark W. McDonough, commissioner of Georgia DPS said, a few days before Christmas.
This New Year’s travel period is less than a third as long as the 102-hour New Year’s travel period for 2018-19, which included a weekend. It began at 6 p.m. on Dec. 28, a Friday, and ended at midnight on New Year’s night.
The 2018-19 New Year’s period trailed the 2018 Christmas period with 18 traffic deaths. DPS reported two of those deaths in southwest Georgia, one investigated by Dougherty County police and one by troopers with Thomasville GSP Post 12, which covers Colquitt, Grady, Mitchell and Thomas counties.
Troopers elsewhere in the state investigated six other deaths, and local agencies that worked traffic fatalities were in Atlanta, Gwinnett County, DeKalb County, Rockdale County, Newton County, Loganville and Chatham County.
Statewide for New Year’s 2018-19, troopers investigated 550 traffic crashes that resulted in 223 injuries. Officials said 368 people were arrested for DUI, while 6,971 citations and 11,339 warnings were issued.