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Wrecks many leading up to holiday weekend
wreck 2 pickup jeep
One person was trapped for a short time Tuesday night after a Jeep Grand Cherokee and Chevorlet pickup collided at the Ga. 400 southbound exit ramp and Buford Highway (Hwy. 20). No one was seriously hurt, authorities said, though both drivers were cited in the wreck. Authorities were reminding motorist to be careful when traveling over the 78-hour July Fourth holiday travel period, which runs from 6 tonight to midnight Sunday. - photo by Jim Dean

The long July Fourth holiday weekend does not officially begin until 6 tonight, yet local authorities have already had a busy week.

Emergency personnel had handled numerous wrecks --  nine on Tuesday alone -- as one of the busiest travel periods of the year neared.

In perhaps the most serious incident, which happened Tuesday night, one person was trapped after two vehicles collided at Buford Highway (Hwy. 20) and Ga. 400. In another, less than an hour later, a vehicle struck a house.

Capt. Frank Huggins of the Forsyth County Sheriff's Office said the volume of wrecks could not be attributed to any particular cause, other than traffic.

“It’s just because we got the heavy traffic on the roads … that’s not uncommon,” Huggins said.

Still, authorities were urging motorists to use caution this weekend, in particular reminding folks to wear seat belts and avoid driving after drinking alcohol.

The Georgia State Patrol projected that 23 people would die and 1,094 suffer injuries in 2,315 wrecks on statewide over the 78-hour holiday period, which runs until midnight Sunday.

Last year during a 30-hour July Fourth holiday travel period, there were 643 wrecks statewide that resulted in 267 injuries and nine deaths, three of which the state patrol said involved drunken drivers. Five people killed were not wearing seat belts.

State Department of Transportation figures showed that eight of the nine fatal wrecks occurred on state highways, county roads and city streets, with only one on an interstate.

Cumming Police Chief Mike Eason has said anyone who plans on driving anywhere should be careful.

"Watch out for kids," Eason said. "They're going to be everywhere during the holiday because of the outdoor activities."

Eason said the holiday creates a "party atmosphere" with an increased amount of alcohol consumption. "Designate a driver if you're going out," he said. "Either stay at home when you drink or designate a driver."

Huggins agreed.

"People should drink in a responsible manner," he said. "If you drink, stay at home. Don't operate cars. Don't get carried away."

Huggins said sheriff's deputies would be performing "safety checks" over the weekend.

"We want to make sure everybody has a safe holiday on the road," he said. "Our enforcement is geared toward this."
Alcohol was not a factor in either of Tuesday's more serious incidents, the first of which occurred about 8:30 p.m. Tuesday on Hwy. 20 at Ga. 400.

Authorities said Jeremy Bennett of Cumming and his passenger, Betty Bennett, were taken to North Fulton Regional Hospital after their 1999 Jeep Cherokee was struck by a Chevrolet pickup driven by 20-year-old Narciso Romo.

Forsyth County Fire Capt. Jason Shivers said both Bennetts had moderate injuries and that “one of them was entrapped and had to be extricated.”

As of Wednesday night, the hospital had no listing for either Bennett.

Huggins said the Bennetts were exiting Ga. 400 south onto Buford Highway and went through the red light. Romo, who was traveling west on Buford, struck the Jeep.

Bennett was cited for running a red light and Romo was arrested for driving without a license, Huggins said. He added that Romo spent his birthday in jail.

The wreck slowed traffic for a short time along the bustling Hwy. 20 retail corridor in Cumming.

Shivers said he had to leave the scene of that wreck for an unrelated incident at Old Alpharetta Road and Meadow Lane in extreme southwestern Forsyth, near the Fulton County line.

He said the “low-speed impact” there resulted in a Lincoln Navigator hitting a resident’s house, but it “didn’t even hit hard enough to knock the wall in."

No one was hurt. Huggins said Janie Sue Doerr of Auburn was cited for failing to yield when turning her 2004 GMC Envoy onto Old Alpharetta from Meadow Lane. Lamont Lawrence of Snellville collided with her in his Navigator.

“After the collision, (the Navigator) rolled off the road and made contact with a wooden swing and rain gutter at 785 Old Alpharetta Road,” Huggins said.

Staff Writer Frank Reddy contributed to this report.