PERRY -- A $250,000 grant to the Houston County Sheriff’s Office will create a new unit aimed at cracking down on driving under the influence, aggressive driving and other traffic offenses.
The Houston County Commission voted Tuesday to accept the grant from the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety for a program called Highway Enforcement of Aggressive Traffic, or H.E.A.T.
The grant will create a H.E.A.T. unit that will enforce DUI, speeding and aggressive driving laws as well as educating the public about seat belts and child restraints.
It will pay for three fully equipped Dodge Chargers as well as the salaries and benefits of two of the three sheriff’s deputies in the unit.
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Barry Holland, the county’s director of administration, said after Tuesday’s commission meeting that the grant will result in three additional deputy positions. Current deputies will move into the H.E.A.T. positions, then jailers will fill those deputies’ former positions. The new hires will be for those jailers’ positions.
The grant covers the coming year, then more funds will come in lesser amounts over the next four years, Commission Chairman Tommy Stalnaker said.
Lt. Brad Stone, assistant commander of patrol for the sheriff’s office, said the unit will be assigned to the traffic division.
The H.E.A.T. deputies’ duties differ from other traffic deputies in that they will focus solely on DUI, aggressive driving and speeding. The other traffic deputies have broader duties that includes such things as expired tags and minor moving violations.
“The goal is to reduce vehicle crashes and fatalities,” Stone said.
Cpl. Justin Hall, who will supervise the unit, said that while the deputies have been selected, they won’t actually begin patrolling as a part of the unit for at least another couple of weeks. They are undergoing training on the focus of the grant.
The cars, which haven’t yet arrived, are painted in a different scheme that is used for other H.E.A.T. units around the state. The cars will be navy blue and have H.E.A.T. and Georgia Department of Highway Safety insignia.
Hall said having deputies focused on DUI, aggressive driving and speeding will make a difference.
“Those three things contribute a lot to the severity of the crashes that we have,” he said.
Hall said it seems there are more vehicles on the road in Houston County than ever before, and that has created issues with aggressive driving. It’s not just a generic term, but an actual charge that can be given if a driver is harassing another motorist.
“We find that we have very impatient drivers, people who are driving and not being courteous to other drivers on the road,” he said.
To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.