Authorities announced this week that they are joining forces to keep roads and waterways safe during the July Fourth holiday, which statistics show is one of the deadliest weeks of the year.
Increased enforcement will begin at Thurmond Lake on Saturday with Operation Dry Water, a multi-agency initiative launched in 2009. The weeklong sweep will feature park rangers conducting safety inspections on open water and at public landings to reduce accidents and fatalities related to boating under the influence.
Intensified road patrols will run through July 7.
“Troopers and officers will not hesitate to arrest an impaired driver and tow their vehicle,” said Col. Mark W. McDonough, the commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Safety.
He said the Georgia State Patrol will work with local police on “concentrated patrols and road checks” as part of Operation Zero Tolerance, which targets impaired drivers during the summer travel period.
Lance Cpl. Judd Jones, a spokesman for the South Carolina Highway Patrol, said its troopers intend to focus on nighttime seat-belt violations, a leading cause of fatalities in South Carolina.
During 2011 and 2012, 71 percent of traffic fatalities in South Carolina over Independence Day weekend – 10 of 14 crashes – involved drunken drivers. On top of that, Judd said that in the past year 64 percent of nighttime fatalities involved motorists who were not wearing seat belts – compared with 49 percent during the day.
The lone fatal wreck in the Aiken area during the 2012 July Fourth holiday involved a woman in Orangeburg County who wasn’t wearing a seat belt.
The Georgia State Patrol has reported seven deaths since Memorial Day, including one in Washington County.
“Please buckle up,” Jones said. “Seat belts are the No. 1 safety device a motor-vehicle passenger has.”
State troopers and park rangers urged residents not to drive if they plan to consume alcohol and to choose a designated driver before the celebration begins, especially on the water.
Conservation rangers have made 71 arrests this year on Georgia lakes and waterways. There were 180 arrests in 2012.
Thurmond Lake inspections are planned from 10 a.m. to noon at Dorn Landing on Thursday and Parksville Landing on July 6. Boating safety and enforcement officers said they plan to look for items such as safety equipment and boat and motor registration.
“We are dedicated to keeping boaters safe on our waters,” said Lt. Col. Jeff Weaver, of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. “Boating is a safe and enjoyable pastime when people stay alert and follow the rules.”