'December HEAT' burning up traffic offenders

By Ed Brock

Oradell Rowzee has seen the extra holiday patrols by area law enforcement and she likes it.

"It's good, cracking down on drunk drivers," said 28-year-old Rowzee of Riverdale. "I was hit by a drunk driver when I was little so I'm really with that."

Police are out in force for the Christmas and New Year's holidays and so is the Georgia State Patrol. They're participating in several different operations, including "December HEAT" and "Operation Zero Tolerance."

At last Friday's opening road check for "Zero Tolerance," which focuses on catching drunk drivers, Clayton County police, working with Atlanta police, made six arrests for driving under the influence and wrote 60 tickets. And the road checks and increased patrols will continue until next week

"We're doing a minimum of one (road check) a day," Israel said.

There has been an emphasis on state routes and arterial roads like Mt. Zion Road for road checks during this year's program. Usually Christmas time sees fewer DUI cases than New Year, Israel said.

The Morrow Police Department will also increase its patrols, Chief Charlie Sewell said, with administrative personnel and detectives hitting the streets along with the city's Citizens Corps members.

And, once again, Sewell is urging motorists not to block the intersections around busy Southlake Mall.

According to GSP predictions there will be 1,535 crashes around the state during the 54-hour Christmas holiday weekend, beginning at 6 p.m. Friday and ending at midnight Sunday. Of that number the patrol is expecting 11 deaths and 423 injuries. Last year the holiday was 102 hours long and 24 people died in wrecks during that time.

About 1,500 accidents are expected for the equally long New Year's weekend with 394 injuries and 9 deaths.

The GSP is also participating in Operation Zero Tolerance.

"Troopers will not hesitate to arrest impaired drivers," said GSP Commander Col. George Ellis. "This is the only warning troopers will be giving for DUI."

As usual, Israel said, police are urging holiday party party-goers to use a designated driver if they plan to drink, to "buckle up, slow down and drive carefully."