The Herald Gazette wishes you a happy Fourth of July to celebrate America’s independence. Stay safe on the roads, enjoy time with friends and family and celebrate responsibly. The Georgia State Patrol encourages drivers to buckle-up this weekend and plan their travel activities with safety in mind. The 78-hour July Fourth holiday travel period began Friday at 6 p.m. and ends at midnight Monday, July 4.Colonel Bill Hitchens, Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Safety, said Georgia State Troopers will be watching for impaired drivers, speeders, and people not using safety belts during holiday patrols.Last year, the Georgia Department of Transportation’s Crash Reporting Unit counted 1,829 traffic crashes, 834 injuries and 11 traffic deaths during the July Fourth holiday travel period. The Georgia State Patrol investigated 300 of the traffic crashes that covered a Thursday evening through Sunday night time period. Troopers reported 9 traffic deaths and 209 injuries in the crashes they investigated. Two of the fatal crashes were alcohol related and 3 of the fatal crash victims in passenger cars or pickup trucks were not wearing a safety belt.Colonel Hitchens said Troopers and officers with the Department’s Motor Carrier Compliance Division will be patrolling during the holiday weekend with a goal of keeping the holiday traffic count as low as possible. ‘Our Troopers and MCCD Officers will be concentrating on the most common violations identified as contributing factors in fatal traffic crashes,” he said.The July Fourth holiday weekend is also an Operation C.A.R.E. weekend. Operation C.A.R.E., or Combined Accident Reduction Effort, encourages safe driving through high visibility enforcement of traffic laws and public education efforts. The program among state highway patrols and state police agencies is now in its 34th year and is sponsored by the International Association of Chiefs of Police.