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Public safety officials caution drivers during busy, holiday weekend

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) -

It's that time of year for a New Orleans tradition - the Bayou Classic. Tourism leaders say hotel occupancy is at 95 percent. 

Yet, with the promise of a fun-filled weekend, for many, public safety leaders are urging visitors and locals alike to think twice before getting behind the wheel. 

The line at Cafe du Monde is a little longer this weekend, as thousands of repeat visitors and first-timers flock to the crescent city for food, football and fun.

"This was the first stop. I've been here before, I was like, 'we have to get our beignets,'" said a tourist from Philadelphia. 

Bayou Classic organizers are expecting close to 200,000 visitors for the game and its festivities, alone. That's not counting all the folks in town for the holiday weekend. With the influx of tourists, public safety officials are issuing a more somber message to those looking for a good time. 

"When we come out and we're cutting you out of that car and you're going either to the hospital or to the morgue, that's the serious consequences of this," said New Orleans Superintendent of Fire Tim McConnell. 

They held a joint press conference, Friday, alongside leaders with the Department of Transportation, urging drivers to give the road their full attention when they get behind the wheel this weekend. 

"Plan your trip ahead. Get online, go to Waze, go to 511LA dot org. And when you get in your car, buckle up and put the phone down," said Department of Transportation and Development Secretary Dr. Shawn Wilson.

Most importantly, don't drink and drive.

"My crash date was October 8, 1994," said Vanessa Braggs. 

Braggs and her family were victims of a drunk driver more than two decades ago.

"Because of that choice of a good time on a Saturday night," she said. 

Braggs and her husband were traveling with their three young children.

"I had a nine-year-old son named Jeremy, a seven-year-old son named Justin and a five-year-old son named Nicholas," Braggs said. "It pinned me and my husband and our vehicle but, most of all, it knocked our seat so loose, it crushed my boys."

Braggs says her two youngest were airlifted to LSU Medical Center.

"My husband laid on Highway 507 and my husband took his last breath," said Braggs. "On that Sunday morning, my seven-year-old died."

She says her five year old was rushed into surgery, but doctors couldn't stop the bleeding on his brain and Braggs was forced to make a painful decision-- to take Nicholas off life support.

"The next hardest thing I had to do was prepared for three funerals," said Braggs. 

It's why she's urging those who drink this weekend, to plan ahead. 
    
Transportation officials also remind drivers to buckle up. They say the majority of people who die on Louisiana roads aren't wearing a seat belt. 

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