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Summer crackdown on traffic offenders yields results
Gainesville Master Police Officer Griggs Wall, with the traffic enforcement unit, clocks traffic Tuesday on Limestone Parkway. Local law enforcement agencies are gearing up for the “100 Days of Summer H.E.A.T” campaign, which focuses on citing speeding and impaired drivers and those who aren’t wearing their seat belts. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

The “H.E.A.T.” seems to be working.

Since first launching its high-visibility “100 Days of Summer H.E.A.T.” public awareness campaign in 2003, the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety has seen reductions in crashes statewide in the years since, a trend that’s been mirrored in Gainesville.

H.E.A.T. stands for Highway Enforcement of Aggressive Traffic, and involves hundreds of law enforcement agencies statewide in an effort to crack down on speeders and reckless drivers during the busiest travel months of the year.

Sgt. Dale Cash, commander of the Gainesville Police Department’s traffic division, notes that these are the months when teen drivers spend more time on the roads.

“Less experienced drivers are always a risk,” Cash said.

Through the Summer H.E.A.T. campaign, the Highway Safety office provides grants to local law enforcement agencies across the state.

But a big part of the campaign is public awareness, through television and radio spots.

At the Gainesville Police Department, it’s business as usual for the department’s four traffic enforcement unit officers, but Cash hopes drivers are more aware that they’ll be out on the roads looking for infractions. And this summer, there will be some new laws to enforce.

“People need to know with the new seat belt law for trucks, once that is signed into law, it will be enforced,” Cash said. “The texting
law and law against teens using cell phones while driving will also be enforced.”

The numbers seem to indicate the message about summer traffic enforcement is getting through.

With 1,287 traffic fatalities in 2009, versus 1,508 the previous year, Georgia saw a 14 percent decrease in fatal crashes. For the year to date, Georgia has a 17 percent decrease in road deaths over this time last year.

“The number of deaths is still unacceptable,” Governor’s Office of Highway Safety Director Bob Dallas said. “But to see double-digit declines, Georgians should pat themselves on the back.”

In Gainesville, wrecks have gone down in the summer months by 22 percent over the past two years, from 604 in 2007 to 475 in 2009, Cash said.

“We like to think (public awareness) has made a difference,” Cash said.

Cash said the repeated messages to watch your speed, buckle up and don’t drink and drive have a purpose: To “make sure that those in your car as well as yourself get to and from your destination safely.”

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