Officials warn drivers ahead of busy holiday travel season

A record number of people will travel (Source:WALB)
A record number of people will travel (Source:WALB)
Nita Birmingham, GDOT (Source:WALB)
Nita Birmingham, GDOT (Source:WALB)

TIFTON, GA (WALB) - A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the next couple of weeks, and that means an unusually deadly year on Georgia roads could get worse.

This Christmas and New Year's, Georgia roads will be even more crowded than usual.

Traffic fatalities are up this year statewide and in Southwest Georgia.

"We should see the most travelers on the year-end holidays on record. More than 103 million Americans are expected to take a trip of 50 miles or more. In Georgia, that amounts to nearly three million," said AAA spokesperson Mark Jenkins.

Of those travelers, 2.7 million Georgians are expected to be on the roads.

Analysts said that rising wages and low gas prices are a catalyst of the spike.

But, with more people on the road, the chance of deadly car crashes also goes up.

"We've already surpassed last years total, which was 1,432," explained GDOT spokesperson Nita Birmingham. "That's alarming and its discouraging particularly because we are heading into a long holiday weekend and we know there are going to be more people on the road."

So far, Georgia Department of Transportation workers said that 1,448 fatalities have been reported this year, and in the Department's Region 4, which includes most of Southwest Georgia, traffic fatalities are up too.

"Avoid any conflicts on the road. Obviously, just pay attention to the speed limit," said Birmingham. "Please, wear your seat belts. We're having a tremendous issue with that."

59 percent of those traffic deaths happened to people who were not wearing seat belts, a statistic that workers said is both frustrating and heartbreaking, especially during the holiday season.

AAA also anticipates that it will need to provide roadside assistance to just short of a million people nationwide during the busy travel season.

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