Georgia State Patrol troopers are hitting the beaches for the Memorial Day holiday weekend.
No, these troopers are not taking the weekend off. They will be in full uniform at St. Simons Island, Jekyll Island and other coastal Georgia sites to ensure folks are observing state-ordered social distancing practices.
And there will still be plenty of troopers left to patrol roadways over the holiday weekend, looking out for folks driving distracted — whether it be by alcohol, drugs or cellphones.
The state patrol is seeking the cooperation of citizens in its twofold mission, hoping motorists drive safely and beachgoers keep a safe distance from each other to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“This Memorial Day weekend will be like no other we have experienced before,” said Col. Gary Vowell, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Safety. “Even in these unprecedented times, it is the job of the Georgia Department of Public Safety to emphasize the safety responsibilities of everyone on Georgia’s roadways and beaches this upcoming weekend.”
Statewide, there were 13 traffic deaths and 247 injuries caused by 430 crashes over the 2019 Memorial Day weekend. A total of 384 people went to jail for DUI during the holiday weekend. Additionally, law enforcement issued 10,189 citations and 11,123 warnings.
This year’s Memorial Day weekend began at 6 p.m. Friday and runs through midnight Monday.
The state patrol asks motorists to exercise simple common sense on the roadways:
• Buckle up. Those under 8 years old should be properly restrained in a child safety seat.
• Keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road. Use hands-free communication only. By law, Georgia is now a “hands-free” communication state.
• Observe posted speed limits.
• Do not drive drunk or otherwise impaired. Arrange for a designated driver or use taxis or ride-sharing services when drinking is on the agenda.
Troopers also will give close scrutiny to seatbelt use among motorist, participating in the “Click It or Ticket” campaign with local law enforcement. The primary goal of the program is compliance and education about the life-saving importance of wearing seatbelts.
Troopers on public beaches will ensure folks are observing the rules that prohibit large social gatherings and require social distancing. Troopers also may show up at restaurants to make sure social distancing guidelines are being followed.
The state Department of Public Health cautions that the governor’s shelter-in-place order is still in effect for those 65 or older with compromising medical conditions. The health department also asks folks to exercise due care when mixing youth and elderly, because children often carry the virus without showing symptoms.
“If a child is infected but asymptomatic and visits with a vulnerable adult in the family, the resulting illness could be devastating,” the health department said. “If you aren’t under the governor’s shelter-in-place order and you choose to venture out on Memorial Day weekend, please take every precaution to protect yourself and others.”