Troopers, police brace for impact

LAWRENCEVILLE - A midweek Independence Day has officials hoping for safer holiday travel.

Between 6 tonight and midnight Wednesday, the Georgia Department of Public Safety and the state Department of Transportation predict there will be 1,015 crashes, 397 injuries and six deaths on the roads.

The prediction for the 30-hour period is much less than 2006's 78-hour holiday travel period, which yielded 2,922 crashes, 1,289 injuries and 30 deaths.

"This is a unique holiday because of the time frame coming in the middle of the week," Georgia State Patrol senior trooper and department spokesman Larry Schnall said. "We just caution the public whether they are going long distances or short distances."

Schnall said troopers saw lighter rush-hour traffic Monday and predicted even less congestion at the end of the week, as many people are taking their annual vacation during the Independence Day week. Some companies are even halting operations this week, he said.

But the numbers will soar tonight and all day Wednesday, Schnall predicted, and troopers hope to blanket the interstates and partner with local law enforcement agencies for sobriety checkpoints.

High visibility of law enforcement, he said, "ultimately leads to people being on their best behavior."

Because of the holiday, the Georgia DOT canceled all construction-related road closures last weekend, next weekend and on the Fourth.

All lanes will be open from 5 a.m. Wednesday to 5 a.m. Thursday, according to a press release from DOT spokeswoman Teri Pope.

"Even though we won't be working in the roads, please make sure to slow down as many crashes in work zones occur while that work zone is not active," Pope said. "Also remember that all fines are doubled in work zones even when they aren't active. Speeding through a work zone can hurt you and your pocketbook."