By AMY LINDBLOM
While thousands gear up for a leisurely holiday weekend, most California Highway Patrol and law enforcement officers in Calaveras and Tuolumne counties will be on duty and on the lookout.
They will be watching over the long Labor Day weekend for speeders, drivers without seat belts and drunken drivers.
So far this year, 24 people have died on Tuolumne County roads, compared with 21 in all of 2002.
On Memorial Day four young Tuolumne County residents were killed on Parrotts Ferry Road. A combination of alcohol, drugs and excessive speed contributed to the accident.
And during the Fourth of July weekend, two more were killed when one driver drifted over the double yellow line. There was no indication alcohol was a factor.
"I want Labor Day to be a safer weekend," said Lt. Mike Ayala, commander of the Sonora-area California Highway Patrol office.
"Over half of the people killed over the recent July Fourth weekend were not wearing seat belts," Ayala said. "That's a simple precaution every traveler should take to increase safety on the highway."
A maximum number of officers will be on the roads, said both Ayala and Jan Moon, public affairs officer for the San Andreas CHP office.
"We will be looking for drivers who are speeding, not wearing their seat belts and especially for the drunk drivers and those who are just not paying attention to what they are doing," Moon said.
Moon said most of the accidents in Calaveras County so far this year were due to drivers not paying attention.
Most of the victims were county residents, not tourists.
"These are people who drive these roads every day and they are way too complacent," Moon said.
"Just because they drive these roads every day doesn't mean they are going to stay on the roads."
Ayala warned party goers to remember to designate a non-drinking driver.