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The HEAT is on local drivers

POSTED: July 16, 2008 5:01 a.m.
/For The Times

From left, Habersham County Sheriff DeRay Fincher; Gainesville Police Sgt. Dean Staples; Spencer Moore, executive director of the Governor's Office of Highway Safety; Gainesville Police Chief Frank Hooper; and Baldwin Police Chief Daren Osborn attend a news conference Friday in Habersham County, announcing the Summer HEAT initiative.

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Law officers from across Northeast Georgia were bringing the heat Friday.

In a show of force to mark the kick-off of the region’s "Summer HEAT" traffic enforcement campaign, marked cars from Gainesville; the Georgia State Patrol; Hall, Habersham, Banks and Rabun counties; and other agencies took to the main state highways in a high-visibility "saturation patrol."

"Summer’s here, the traffic’s heavier, and we want people to be more observant of their driving," Gainesville Police Sgt. Dean Staples said. Those who don’t will face citations, tickets or jail time, he said.

HEAT stands for Highway Enforcement of Aggressive Traffic. The program, headed up by the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, is billed as a "high-profile crackdown" on speeders, reckless drivers and DUI offenders.

On Friday, an array of patrol cars from nearly a dozen area law enforcement agencies gathered at a staging area in the Habersham County village of Smithville to spread the word about HEAT.

Afterward, they rolled out for simultaneous mobilizations along Interstate 985, Ga. 365 and Ga. 441, patrolling all the way up to the state line. "It can be a deadly corridor at times, so we’re going to be on the lookout for seat belt violations, speeders and impaired drivers," Staples said.

HEAT, which focuses on dangerous driving habits, corresponds with two other campaigns in Georgia: "Click It Or Ticket," aimed at seat belt use, and "Operation: Zero Tolerance," which targets impaired driving.

The program, which funds additional patrols through state and federal highway safety money, lasts through the end of August.

Staples said now is the peak time for traffic on the roads, with school out and Lake Lanier drawing more visitors. "The bottom line is people need to slow down, watch their driving habits and drive safely," he said.



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