MOULTRIE -- The number of Memorial Day weekend fatalities on Georgia's roads reached its highest number since 1995, with almost a quarter of them occurring in Colquitt County.

Of the 23 people who died over the three-day weekend, five of them were in Colquitt County. In one of those accidents, three children -- all under the age of 10 -- perished, along with the 26-year-old driver. They were all from the Barwick area.

Alcohol is believed to have been a contributing factor, but results from blood and urine samples will not be available for a couple of months, a Georgia State Patrol spokesman said earlier.

The other accident claimed the life a Moultrie man who was turning left into a trailer park on Pavo Road. Results from the GSP accident reconstruction were not available Tuesday.

GSP predicted 19 fatalities for the weekend, said Gordy Wright, a GSP spokesman.

"I honestly thought that 19 was a high number at first, because we have been under the predicted number for the past six years," Wright said.

During the Memorial Day weekend in 2001, 16 people lost their lives but 18 were predicted. Twelve died the same weekend in 2000, when GSP predicted 17. The numbers for 2002 have been the highest since 1995, when 26 people died.

Wright said the number of fatalities, crashes and injuries for the Memorial Day weekend is most comparable to the Labor Day weekend because they are both last 78 hours.

"Memorial Day and Labor Day are either second or third every year in the number of fatalities," he said.

Thanksgiving holiday automobile crashes claim the most lives each year, he said, because the holiday lasts four days.

One of the reasons behind the number of fatalities this year was the high volume of traffic, he said.

"It's people's first time to go out to start the vacation season," Wright said. "It's just that time of year."

To make the predictions, Wright said he looks at past numbers and other factors that may contribute to more accidents.

"What's scary is the July fourth holiday coming up," he said. "It falls on a Thursday, so we're expecting numbers like we see for Thanksgiving."

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