Seat belt, speed limits, and other laws to be enforced
(ATLANTA) State troopers and local law enforcement are asking everyone to make the summer travel season a safe one this year by remembering to click their seat belt or risk being handed a ticket.
With many Georgians expected to be on the road during the Memorial Day holiday weekend, officers are sharing personal stories of seat belts saving their lives or the lives of others to show why we all need to buckle up on every trip.
Deputy Brandon Farmer is a member of the Newton County Sheriff’s Office Highway Enforcement of Aggressive Traffic (H.E.A.T.) team. Brandon credits a seat belt with saving his life in a crash that killed two of his friends when he was 17 years old. His two friends were not wearing a seat belt, and one was ejected from the truck on impact with another vehicle. Losing his friends almost 20 years ago is always on his mind when he has to notify a family that a loved one has been killed in a traffic crash.
“My message when I stop someone for not wearing a seat belt is you do not want to have to go through what I have been through,” Farmer said. “There are some mistakes you just cannot come back from, and choosing not to wear a seat belt could one day possibly cost someone their life.”
Corporal Kris Herrick with the Crisp County Sheriff’s Office credits a seat belt saving his life during a crash in his patrol car in 2008 when he was working for the Cordele Police Department. Cpl. Herrick was not injured when his patrol car hit a culvert, went airborne over a vehicle that pulled out in front him and then landed in the median. Investigations by the Georgia State Patrol and insurance companies determined Cpl. Herrick would have been ejected from his car had he not been wearing his seat belt. Surviving that crash has led Cpl. Herrick to become a certified child passenger safety seat technician.
“I usually do not give warnings for those I find on the road not wearing a seat belt because I know I would not be alive today if I had not been wearing one during my crash,” Cpl. Herrick said. “I share my story every chance I can with the hope it may one day save a life, and when I have time on the road, I explain how seat belts are designed to save lives.”
Cpl. Kris Hall is part of the Habersham County Sheriff’s Office H.E.A.T. team that has been working to reduce the number of people killed in traffic crashes in the popular tourist spot in the northeast Georgia mountains. Cpl. Hall was called to a crash in April of this year involving an SUV and a pickup truck on a four-lane highway where the speed limit is 65 miles per hour. A family of six, including four children under the age of 5, was not seriously hurt, while the driver of the truck, who was not wearing a seat belt, suffered several broken bones and was taken to a local hospital.
“After seeing so many crashes in 26 years of law enforcement, it is a good to know this family survived because the mother and father were wearing their seat belts and made sure their children were properly restrained," Cpl. Hall said. "Our H.E.A.T. unit and other agencies conduct seat belt, distracted driving, and sobriety checkpoints on a regular basis, and our enforcement efforts have helped reduce the number of people killed in traffic crashes in Habersham County by 67 percent over the last five years."
With the Memorial Day holiday travel weekend beginning Friday, the Georgia State Patrol and local law enforcement agencies are working to reverse the increase in the number of people who have been killed in traffic crashes in Georgia over the last year.
Preliminary data from the Georgia Department of Transportation shows the number of people killed in traffic crashes through the first four months of 2021 is 18 percent higher than for the same time period last year, and 60 percent of those killed in traffic crashes so far this year in Georgia were not wearing seat belts.
The 2021 Memorial Day Holiday travel period begins at 6 p.m. on Friday, May 28, and runs through 11:59 p.m. on Monday, May 31. According to the Georgia State Patrol, 15 people were killed in traffic crashes during the 78-hour Memorial Day holiday weekend last year.
“No one thinks they will be in a crash, but a seat belt is the best protection you have in your vehicle in the event of a crash,” Governor’s Office of Highway Safety Director Allen Poole said. “No matter if you are traveling out of town or across town this summer, make the smart choice to wear your seat belt on every trip.”
Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows 73 percent of people in the United States survive serious traffic crashes when correctly wearing a seat belt. Passengers correctly wearing a seat belt in the front seat of a passenger car can reduce their risk of a fatal injury in a crash by 45 percent, and the number is 60 percent for those in a light truck.
The Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, Georgia State Patrol and local law enforcement offer the following tips for those traveling during the Memorial Day holiday weekend:
Allow extra time for your trip.
•Make sure everyone is buckled up before getting on the road.
•Program navigational devices before your trip and find a safe place to park off the road if you need to change your destination.
•Take breaks on long trips and switch drivers if possible.
•Never get behind the wheel when drinking and always arrange a ride with sober designated driver.