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Roads, Lake Lanier likely crowded over Labor Day weekend
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As local residents prepare for the Labor Day holiday weekend, some state road workers will be taking off - and law enforcement will be stepping up - their protocol.

Often thought to signal the transition from summer to fall, Labor Day should mean a packed Lake Lanier as people savor their time on the water before cooler temperatures arrive.

Perhaps more so this year, given that the weather forecast calls for high temperatures near 85 degrees under sunny skies Saturday-Monday before a chance of thunderstorms each night.

"The biggest advice is to make sure everyone checks their safety equipment," said Lt. Judd Smith of the Department of Natural Resources, which patrols the lake. "Life jackets, fire extinguishers, make sure they are the right sizes and amounts for everyone on board."

Smith said it is of the "utmost importance" to designate a sober driver if lake-goers intend to drink alcohol while out on the boat.

Having proper - and working - lights is important, regardless of whether boaters plan to be on the water at night.

"It's a big contributor to accidents after dark," Smith said. "Even if you don't plan on being out that long, the time can get away from you.

"Even cloudy or rainy weather, which it looks like we may have some of this weekend. It can sneak up on you. It's a big lake, and it's easy to get a long way from where you put in."

Every DNR ranger in the state will be patrolling waterways this weekend, which Smith said is one of the agency's busiest of the year.

Highways are also bustling over Labor Day, and the Georgia Department of Transportation is suspending construction-related lane closures statewide to help ease traffic congestion.

Work along interstate highways and heavily traveled state routes will be suspended from noon Friday until 5 a.m. Tuesday.

In a statement, DOT state construction engineer Marc Mastronardi noted that this weekend is "the last holiday of the summer, and we expect heavy traffic on our roads."

"We want to make travel to Georgia's lakes, parks and attractions easier and safer for all," he said. "Traffic fatalities have increased this year in comparison to last year.

"We encourage the public to ‘Drive Alert and Arrive Alive.' Take responsibility for yourself and your passengers. Make sure you buckle up, put down the cell phone and do not drive distracted or impaired. Just focus on driving."

Crews may still be working in proximity to well-traveled corridors, and safety concerns may require some long-term lane closures to remain in place, according to the DOT.

Incident management or emergency, maintenance-related lane closures could also become necessary at any time along any route.

"We typically see an increase in roadway fatalities during heavy travel holidays," Mastronardi said. "We cannot overemphasize the need to slow down, drive alert and take every precaution to protect yourself and your passengers."

In the event of a crash or breakdown, DOT officials advise motorists and passengers to never get out of a car on highway unless their lives are in imminent danger. Instead, they should pull onto the nearest shoulder as far from the travel lanes as possible and call 511 for HERO assistance (in metro Atlanta) or 911 for medical emergency service anywhere.

Georgia law requires drivers to move over one lane when law enforcement, emergency vehicles or construction crews are on the side of the road and displaying flashing emergency lights. If it is unsafe to move over, slow down below the posted speed limit.

For updated information on travel conditions, the DOT advises travelers to call 511 or visit Georgia 511 is a free service that provides real-time traffic and travel information statewide.

Callers can also transfer to operators to request assistance or report incidents 24/7.