By Jason A. Smith
The Henry County Police Department is gearing up for the holidays, and holiday motorists, by joining with law enforcement agencies across the state to crack down on drunk driving.
Operation Zero Tolerance begins today and extends through Jan. 1. The campaign combines the efforts of local and state law enforcement agencies, and the Governor's Office of Highway Safety, through road checks, roadblocks and other measures.
OZT is one of several campaigns conducted annually by Henry Police's Highway Enforcement of Aggressive Traffic Unit. HEAT Sgt. Jeff Owen said such campaigns typically generate positive results. "With focused operations, we do see significant arrests as it relates to driving under the influence."
He said the growing population in Henry in recent years has translated into a growing number of DUI arrests, but that the department hopes "that our efforts will make the public more aware that we're trying to make Henry County safer."
Henry Police will also work closely with the Clayton County Police Department during the next two weekends, conducting county-line road checks as part of OZT. Clayton Police Capt. Greg Dickens noted the importance of interagency cooperation during such campaigns.
"When agencies work together, it adds to the number of officers that can commit to [an] operation. It increases the effectiveness of the operation," said Dickens.
In a press release issued today, GOHS spokesman Jim Shuler called drunk driving "one of America's deadliest crimes." According to Schuler, driving while intoxicated is particularly evident during the holiday season. "The travel period between Thanksgiving and New Year's is still one of the ... most dangerous times to be on America's roadways, due to the increase in holiday partying and impaired driving."
Part of the reason Shuler cited for that increase is a misconception long held by many motorists: "Way too many people still believe you have to be 'falling down drunk' to be too impaired to safely drive. That's not the case," he said.
In addition, Shuler said many drivers are simply unaware of the risks of impaired driving.
"Most motorists don't realize the risk of a driver dying in a crash at .08 [blood-alcohol content] is at least 11 times that of drivers without alcohol in their systems. That's why driving with a BAC of .08 or higher is illegal in every state," said Shuler.
Local police departments, conducting road checks during OZT, along wih the Georgia State Patrol, are scheduled to set up sobriety checkpoints and run concentrated patrols throughout the state.