Often recognized as the last big hurrah of the summer, local residents are gearing up for the Labor Day weekend, which is expected to bring sunshine and warmth after days of cool rain.
To ensure a safe holiday, local officials are urging caution on land, in the water and with fireworks in the air as the holiday signals the transition from summer to fall, bringing cooler temperatures and shorter days.
Like any other day, law enforcement officials are reminding residents not to drink and get into the driver’s seat of a car. This weekend, though, officials are ramping up their DUI efforts.
“Not getting a sober ride home after having a few alcoholic beverages because you may only have a short distance to drive is a recipe for disaster,” Georgia Department of Public Safety Commissioner Col. Mark McDonough said.
Since the start of Georgia’s 100-day travel period that began on Memorial Day, almost 400 people have been killed in traffic crashes across the state, and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration crash data shows alcohol is factor in one out of every four traffic deaths in the state of Georgia.
How to get home safe:
• “Tow to Go” — a free towing service provided by AAA and Budweiser, available from Friday, Sept. 1 at 6 a.m. through 6 a.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 5
• Uber or Lyft — ride-sharing services
• Drive Sober, Georgia – app offers a list of free and safe rides home
• Cab or taxi
*GDOT is suspending interstate highway construction-related lane closures from noon on Friday, Sept. 1 until 5 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 5.
With the weather beginning to cool, the Labor Day holiday often means one of the last boat trips of the season.
According to Lt. Col. Jeff Weaver, assistant director of Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Law Enforcement Division, over the last five years, Georgia has averaged 16 boating fatalities per year.
To keep boaters safe, officials say to always wear a life jacket and never boat under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
• Drinking alcohol and operating a boat is illegal if a person’s BAC is over .08. Boat operators can be cited and arrested for boating under the influence (BUI)
• Proper and working lights are essential, regardless of whether boaters plan to be on the water at night
• Safety equipment, such as fire extinguishers and ring buoys – the circular floating devices tossed to people who fall overboard – is also important to have available and in an easily accessible spot
• Boaters should never enter the water if there is lightning present.
Similar to boating, swimmers should always wear a life jacket because the water temperature and current can change at any moment.
“There are those who make a lot of excuses for not wearing a life jacket,” Weaver said. “Being a good swimmer is well and good, but when you’re in the water for an extended period of time, fatigue sets in and being a good swimmer isn’t going to do any good if you don’t have a lifejacket on.”
Shivers said there are several tips locals – especially those on Lanier – should heed, especially given Lake Lanier’s water temperature may be shocking to unexpecting swimmers who may unintentionally gasp from shock underwater or have their muscles stiffen.
• Never swim alone
• Always supervise children in the water
• If you’re on the Chattahoochee River south of Buford Dam, always heed the sirens warning of a pending dam release and get off the river
• Don’t swim under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
According to Forsyth County Fire Department Division Chief Jason Shivers, a lot can go wrong if proper grilling techniques aren’t followed. Here are some of his grilling guidelines:
• Always grill outdoors. Gas and charcoal grills, if used improperly, can create a fire hazard, combustion hazard, as well as a carbon monoxide hazard
• Grills should always be operated by an adult
• If a grill won’t light and it is only blowing gas, or has been lit and goes out, allow 10-15 minutes for it to vent clearly before trying to relight it
• Pay close attention when lighting something propane-fired, and do not use gasoline.
Though fireworks are most often used on the Fourth of July, since Georgia legalized their use in 2015, officials have seen an uptick in fireworks-related accidents.
Georgia law states fireworks may only be lit between 10 a.m. and midnight, and those purchasing fireworks must be 18 years of age or older. Fireworks cannot be used within 100 yards of a nuclear power plant or gasoline station.
Shivers said a structure fire over this year’s July 4 holiday destroyed one building in Forsyth.
• Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks, and always have an adult supervise fireworks activities
• Never place any body part directly over or in front of fireworks when lighting the fuse, and back up to a safe distance immediately after lighting the fuse
• Never try to re-light or pick up fireworks that have not ignited fully – wait a few minutes and then douse the dud in water
• Never point or throw fireworks at another person
• Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishap
• Never carry fireworks in a pocket or shoot them off in metal or glass containers; the gunpowder can get on a person’s skin and cause burning
• In any event of an injury or fire, call 911.