DUI road check campaign begins today

FORT VALLEY — About 75 law enforcement officers from more than 30 agencies in Middle Georgia will converge on Peach County roads tonight as part of an 18-day drunken driving enforcement campaign through the Labor Day holiday.

The officers, part of the Middle Georgia Traffic Enforcement Network, are expected to conduct tonight’s sobriety road checks and concentrated patrols as part of a national and state campaign, said Centerville police Capt. Roger Hayes, network coordinator.

The network includes officers from sheriff’s and police agencies and two Georgia State Patrol offices in a 10-county area, which encompasses Bibb, Houston, Peach, Twiggs, Macon, Pulaski, Dooly, Crisp, Wilcox and Turner counties.

“For me, we’re just trying to keep the roads safer,” Hayes said. “We just lose so many lives to drunken drivers.”

In addition to visibility and enforcement, education is an essential part of the campaign, organizers said.

“We want the public to enjoy Labor Day,” said Bob Dallas, director of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety in Georgia. “But what we do not want is the tragedy of a crash death.”

Of an average of 1,600 crash deaths each year in Georgia, one-third of those are caused by drivers who are impaired, he said.

“Our goal is to get people not to drink and drive,” Dallas said.

Another goal is to encourage motorists to take other safety precautions, wear safety belts and slow down. Dallas said about a quarter of all crashes are related to excessive speed. Starting Jan. 1, the “Super Speeder” law in Georgia will take effect in which drivers traveling faster than 85 miles per hour anywhere in Georgia and 75 mph or more on a two-lane road can expect an additional $200 added to the speeding ticket, Dallas noted.

Before officers hit the roads tonight, a news conference is planned to highlight the campaign. Dallas is among the scheduled speakers. Mothers Against Drunk Driving also will have a representative on hand. The 6 p.m. event is at Peach County Fire Station No. 1 in Powersville.

“We are the face of the victims — the people who lost their lives and are no longer able to speak for themselves,” said Denise Thames, executive director of MADD Georgia. MADD works to have a representative on hand at such enforcement campaign kickoffs also to show support for law enforcement, Thames said.

“We know having law enforcement out in high numbers makes our roads safer,” she said.

The campaign kickoff also will include a dinner for officers.

“When you get all these law enforcement officers together, you are able to share information and camaraderie that ordinarily you wouldn’t have,” Hayes said.

To contact writer Becky Purser, call 256-9559.