The Governor’s Office of Highway Safety is working with the Georgia State Patrol, and local law enforcement agencies across the state to increase enforcement of DUI, speed, the hands-free law, and all traffic laws in an effort to reduce the number of crashes, injuries and deaths during the holiday season.
The increased enforcement effort is part of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s annual Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign, which runs from December 18, 2020 through January 1, 2020. While there may be fewer vehicles on the road and holiday gatherings due to the current pandemic, state troopers and local law enforcement remind everyone that they take all impaired drivers they find to jail. No warnings are issued and there is never an acceptable excuse for driving over Georgia’s legal limit of a .08 blood alcohol concentration level.
“Even though we have seen a decrease in the amount of vehicles on our roads this year because of the pandemic, the number of people killed in traffic crashes in 2020 in Georgia has not decreased, and that is totally unacceptable,” GOHS Director Allen Poole said. “We are letting everyone that will be traveling in Georgia know that state troopers and local law enforcement are going to be patrolling our roadways and conducting sobriety checkpoints during the holiday season. So if you have been drinking, pass the keys to a sober driver or risk a DUI arrest that could cost you up to $10,000 in fines, legal fees, court costs and higher insurance premiums.”
Drunk driving remains a problem both nationwide and in Georgia. NHTSA data shows 10,511 people were killed in drunk driving crashes in 2018. On average, more than 10,000 people were killed in drunk driving crashes nationwide every year from 2015 to 2018…that is one crash every 50 minutes. In Georgia, 375 out of the 1,504 traffic fatalities in 2018 were alcohol related. That’s 25 percent of all traffic deaths in our state.
Indeed, tragedy already struck the Georgia DNR family this year on Sept. 3 when their own Capt. Stan Elrod was killed by a suspected drunk driver while in the line of duty. A 28-year veteran of DNR’s Law Enforcement Division, Capt. Elrod was the supervisor over the Region 2 office in Gainesville and is one of two law enforcement officers in Georgia who were killed in the line of duty by a suspected drunk driver this year. Officer Christopher Ewing of the Smyrna Police Department died on April 20 when his patrol car was hit by a suspected drunk driver.
“All drunk driving deaths are senseless because they are all preventable,” Poole said. “Georgia law enforcement officers wish everyone would make the smart and unselfish decision to not drive after drinking, but these officers are on the road and ready to take to jail those drivers who make the decision to drive when they are over the limit.”
GOHS continues to focus on impaired drivers during the holiday season because last year, 14 people died on Georgia roads from 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve to 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 26. An additional 124 people were arrested for impaired driving just by the Department of Public Safety, which includes the Georgia State Patrol, MCCD and Capitol Police. During the New Year’s travel period from 6 p.m. on Dec. 31 to 11:59 p.m. on Jan. 1, there were two traffic fatalities and 160 DUI arrests just by DPS.
GOHS also offers the following tips for having save travels on Georgia roads during the holidays:
- Plan ahead with a designated driver. Don’t wait until you’ve already started drinking.
- If you find yourself suddenly in need of a sober ride home, call a sober friend, taxi, rideshare service or use public transportation (although holiday schedules may be altered).
- If you’re having a few family members or friends over to celebrate, be sure to have non-alcoholic drinks available to encourage designated drivers and be prepared to take keys away from anyone who tries to leave after drinking.
- If you see a drunk driver on the road, call 9-1-1, *GSP or your local law enforcement agency.