Holiday travel proves deadly, 10 die in crashes in GA

Joe Watkins died in a 2011 crash (Source: WTOC)
Joe Watkins died in a 2011 crash (Source: WTOC)
(Source: WTOC)
(Source: WTOC)
(Source: WTOC)
(Source: WTOC)

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - This Christmas holiday proving to be one of the deadliest on Georgia roads in recent years.

Ten people have died in wrecks across the state since Friday.

Ten may be just a number, but each one of these tragedies has a very real and lasting impact on dozens of people.

I spoke to the mother of a young man killed in a holiday crash several years ago. With each passing year and holiday, the pain does not get any easier. Seeing deadly weekends like this makes it worse.

Jan Williams still remembers the day she lost her son in 2011 like it was yesterday.

"It is the worst thing. You always say that's the worst thing they ever want to happen. It definitely is," Williams said.

Her son, Joe Watkins, just 18 at the time, was home for Thanksgiving break. He lost control of his truck close to home. Watkins -  not wearing his seatbelt - died a week later in the hospital.

His death shook an entire community in Liberty County.

"When somebody is going through this, you come around and you make sure they're OK, and you find things for them to do, and you love them, and you sit with them, and you check on them," said family friend, Lynn Whitmore.

Williams focuses more on helping others than her son's death. Through a group called Compassionate Friends, she gets through holidays and life without her son.

"There are so many other people who have lost children and it's been tragic. It's been horrible. I also think of them. If they can do it, then we can do it too," said Williams.

Ten more families are now experiencing the same loss. All 10 of the deaths happened outside of the Coastal Empire.

One thing that is still a major problem, though, especially around Savannah: drunk driving.

"We made 18 DUI arrests this weekend," said Georgia State Patrol Trooper Dustin Stone.

Troopers spent their time on the road looking for those drunk, distracted and speeding drivers. Perhaps most importantly, ones without seatbelts.

"We're just hoping that we get out there and try to stop these drivers that are impaired and distracted that we can hopefully stop some of that from happening," said Trooper Stone.

For Joe's family and friends, they hope his death shows the dangers of not wearing a seatbelt.

"There are many families who say they want something good to happen from something bad. Of course, wear your seat belts. Be cautious when you're driving," Williams said.

And hopefully, prevent another tragedy like this from happening.

Unfortunately, 2016 as a whole has proven to be a tragic year. 1,479 people have died in wrecks. Up more than 40 from last year and 300 more than 2014.

Copyright 2016 WTOC. All rights reserved.