Law enforcement steps up holiday patrols encourages fireworks safety
by Michelle Babcock
July 03, 2014 12:00 AM | 4881 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Jay Baker
Jay Baker
Tim Cavender
Tim Cavender
Local and state law enforcement agencies are stepping up patrols as the Fourth of July holiday travel period is set to begin today at 6 p.m. and end Sunday at midnight.

Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Lt. Jay Baker said the traffic enforcement unit would be conducting safety check points during the 78-hour holiday period.

“In addition to impaired drivers, deputies will be looking for seat belt and license violations,” Baker said.

During the last Fourth of July holiday period, the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office recorded 37 wrecks involving 55 cars, which led to nine injuries, Baker said. The Sheriff’s Office also reported five DUI arrests last year.

“We would like to urge motorists to avoid driving while impaired and always be aware of your surrounding when operating a motor vehicle,” Baker said.

Baker said people who choose to use legal fireworks should always use caution and warned residents “fireworks that explode and are propelled remain illegal in Georgia.”

Cherokee County Fire and Emergency Services spokesman Tim Cavender said most fireworks-related injuries happen around the Fourth of July.

“Two-thirds to three-fourths of all fireworks injuries occur during the four-week period surrounding Independence Day,”Cavender said. “On the Fourth of July itself, fireworks usually start more fires nationwide than all other causes combined.”

About 7,000 people are treated each year for fireworks-related injuries, Cavender said, with most involving children.

Georgia law now allows for certain types of fireworks, Cavender said, such as non-explosive and non-aerial sparkling items, glow worms, party poppers and wire or wood sparklers, but urged residents to use caution.

“While sparklers and similar non-explosive fireworks are now legal in Georgia, local fire officials urge citizens to use extreme caution to avoid injuries when using fireworks during the Fourth of July holiday,” Cavender said. “The sale and use of most types of fireworks, including firecrackers, skyrockets and cherry bombs, is still illegal in Georgia and punishable by a maximum fine of up to $1,000 and up to one year in jail.”

The Georgia State Patrol investigated nine wrecks in Cherokee County last Fourth of July holiday period, which resulted in six injuries, said Georgia State Patrol spokeswoman Tracey Watson.

Last year in Cherokee County during the holiday period, troopers made two DUI arrests, issued 52 citations and gave 96 warnings, Watson said.

Woodstock Police spokeswoman Brittany Duncan advised travelers to be aware of the various events taking place around the holiday period, as traffic and road closures may detour or delay travel through the city.

“The city of Woodstock is set to host its annual Independence Day fun race, parade and fireworks display on Friday,” Duncan said.

At 7:15 a.m., Main Street and Rope Mill Road will close from Highway 92 to Woodstock Elementary School, including intersecting roads, for the Freedom Run 5-kilometer race and Fun Run, which begins at 7:30 a.m., Duncan said.

The roads will reopen briefly at 8:30 a.m. to allow traffic through, before closing again at 9:45 a.m. for the parade. The roads are scheduled to reopen at about 11:30 a.m.

The fireworks display in the Woodstock Square Avenue area, around the Target store shopping center, is expected to cause heavy traffic after dusk, Duncan added.

In Canton, the First Friday Fourth of July activities start at 3 p.m., with special guest Gov. Nathan Deal. The parade around the downtown loop starts at 4 p.m., with fireworks at dusk.

Statewide during last year’s travel period, which lasted 102 hours, troopers investigated 1,150 wrecks that resulted in 564 injuries and five fatalities, Watson said.

Statewide during last year’s Fourth of July holiday period, troopers issued 9,849 citations, gave 18,477 warnings and made 359 DUI arrests, Watson said.

This Fourth of July holiday period, troopers will be conducting Operation Zero Tolerance through Sunday, said Col. Mark McDonough, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Safety.

“Georgia State Troopers are joining law enforcement officers from across the country in concentrating on getting impaired drivers off the roads,” McDonough said. “People know driving impaired is illegal, yet they still take their chances. Impaired driving crashes can be prevented if drivers will take the initiative to not drive under the influence.”

The Georgia State Patrol and the Department of Public Safety are also joining forces this weekend to promote safe driving on Interstate 75.

Troopers will be stationed along the interstate, checking for impaired, distracted or speeding drivers, seat belt use and commercial vehicle safety, officials said.

The Georgia State Patrol offered safety tips for drivers and passengers who are traveling during the holiday period this weekend, including: wear a seat belt, obey speed limits, drive sober and alert, eliminate distractions, get plenty of rest before driving, allow plenty of time for travel, plan rest stops along the way and prepare your car before leaving by checking headlights, tires and fluid levels.

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