Statewide holiday campaign cracks down on impaired drivers
by Jessica Loeding
Dec 15, 2012 | 1667 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
As law enforcement across the county — and statewide — gear up for holiday DUI operations, one report shows the state falls below both the nation and Southeast in numbers of alcohol-related fatalities for 2011.

The data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released Thursday shows that from 2010 to 2011, the state experienced 24 fewer traffic deaths, which accounts for a 1.9 percent reduction; and 22 fewer alcohol-impaired driving deaths, which represents a 7.4 percent reduction. Georgia was shown to be 5 percent better than the national average of total reduction in alcohol-related fatalities.

“This data just further indicates that Georgia’s aggressive enforcement of DUI law is working,” said Harris Blackwood, director of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, in a release. “But this good news doesn’t mean we’ll ease up on our state’s impaired drivers. We have more work to do and we’ll continue to crack down on DUI’s 365 days a year.”

Overall from 2010 to 2011, the nation experienced 632 fewer traffic fatalities, which represents a 1.9 percent reduction. There were also 258 fewer alcohol-related driving deaths, which represents a 2.5 percent reduction.

Georgia State Patrol Public Information Officer Gordy Wright said Bartow County showed a decrease in overall traffic fatalities from 2010 to 2011. The GSP investigated 19 fatalities in 2010 and 12 in 2011, an almost 37 percent drop. Those numbers do not include any traffic deaths that may have been investigated by the Bartow County Sheriff’s Office or other local police department.

For 2012, that number has seen a slight uptick. Wright said 13 traffic fatalities had occurred in Bartow through Thursday.

“Over the past several years, GSP Cartersville has been the post that investigated the second highest number of crashes each year — second to Villa Rica,” he added.

Georgia, too, is on track to experience an increase in fatalities for 2012 for the first time in six years. As of Thursday, Georgia has experienced 67 more traffic fatalities than at the same time last year. In total, the state experienced 1,236 traffic deaths in 2011.

The Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, in efforts to help curb drunk driving accidents, launched its annual holiday campaign of Operation Zero Tolerance Friday. “Combating DUI involves enforcement and education,” Wright said. “Troopers combine concentrated patrols and roadchecks with everyday patrols to try and intercept impaired drivers. They also work to educate drivers on the dangers of impaired driving through outreach efforts.”

Cartersville Police Department and the BCSO also work to target impaired drivers through special operations and concentrated patrols.

“The Cartersville Police Department does a number of things to combat DUI driving,” CPD PIO Capt. Mark Camp said. “First, there is the normal making of traffic stops for other violations. This is an opportunity for the officer to detect a DUI driver. Second, the Special Operations unit routinely conducts license and safety checkpoints usually at night, which enables DUI drivers to be detected. Third, we also participate in the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety program ‘Click It or Ticket.’ And fourth, we have also participated in the ‘Rolling Thunder’ operation with other departments.”

BCSO Uniform Patrol Division Capt. Lee Fletcher said his department works to establish road safety checkpoints throughout the year to target those who may be driving under the influence. He said the division takes a proactive approach to patrolling, targeting impaired drivers throughout the county during evening operations.

Statistics show the holiday season isn’t just dangerous in Georgia. NHTSA data shows that 2,597 people were killed in traffic crashes across the country in December 2010 and 775 of those were killed in crashes involving alcohol-impaired drivers.

While the loss of life is tragic enough, drunk driving can also create a tremendous financial burden. Statistics show that the average cost of a DUI can climb to nearly $10,000.

“The fact is that DUI’s are a drain on the state’s resources, the offender’s resources and the resources of any potential victim,” Blackwood said. “It’s imperative that Georgia motorists don’t continue their Christmas partying behind the wheel. Law enforcement all over the state will be cracking down on impaired drivers and they will not hesitate to send you to jail, even if it is Christmas.”

Probate Court Judge Mitchell Scoggins on Thursday night addressed the Bartow County Sheriff’s Office Citizen’s Academy, covering the ramifications for drinking and driving.

He said with each offense the punishment escalates, with fines alone almost doubling with each DUI.

Operation Zero Tolerance will last through New Year’s Day. For more information on enforcement activities, contact your local law enforcement agency. For more information on Operation Zero Tolerance, visit www.gahighwaysafty.org.

ATAGLANCE

According to the Department of Motor Vehicles, the court-imposed penalties for a driving under the influence charge are:

First Offense:

• A fine of $300 to $1,000.

• Imprisonment of 10 days to 12 months, which the judge may suspend, stay or probate (unless the person’s blood alcohol content registered 0.08 or more). Then, you’d have to serve a minimum of 24 hours in jail.

• At least 40 hours of community service, unless the BAC registered under 0.08, in which case the judge may be lenient and order 20 to 40 hours.

• Completion of the Risk Reduction Program. This program is ordered for all DUI convictions.

• Probation period of up to 12 months, including time served.

• One-year driver’s license suspension.

Second offense

• A fine of $600 to $1,000.

• Ninety days to 12 months in prison, with no less than 72 hours actually behind bars.

• A minimum of 30 days of community service.

• Completion of the Risk Reduction Program. This program is ordered for all DUI convictions.

• A clinical evaluation to determine whether an alcohol or treatment program is necessary. If it is, then completion of that program will be ordered as part of the sentence.

• Probation period of 12 months, including time served.

• Three-year driver’s license suspension.

Third offense

• Fine of $1,000 to $5,000.

• Mandatory prison sentence of 120 days to 12 months, with no less than 15 days of actual incarceration time.

• Minimum 30 days of community service.

•Completion of the Risk Reduction Program. This program is ordered for all DUI convictions.

• Clinical evaluation, and then completion of a substance abuse treatment program.

• Probation of 12 months, minus time served.

• Five-year driver’s license suspension.