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Stepped-up traffic enforcement accompany the holiday

By Jason A. Smith

jsmith@henryherald.com

The Governor's Office of Highway Safety (GOHS) is currently engaged in its annual 100 Days of Summer HEAT campaign, and -- as part of the endeavor -- traffic-enforcement units in Henry, DeKalb, Clayton and Cobb counties conducted concentrated patrols Thursday on Interstate 75, as well as on I-285, I-85 and I-20.

City police departments in Dunwoody, Sandy Springs, Union City and Atlanta were also active in the effort, focusing on tail-gaters, aggressive drivers and speeders.

The GOHS reported that the patrols were employed in anticipation of the July 4 travel period. According to a written statement from the agency on Wednesday, the patriotic holiday represents the "second-most-deadly time" to drive on Georgia roads. "Only New Year's poses a greater threat to life behind the wheel, or in the passenger seat," the release said.

One focus of the patrols was violators of the Georgia Move-Over Law. The legislation, passed in 2003, requires drivers to shift lanes away from law enforcement and other emergency workers on the interstate.

GOHS Director Bob Dallas addressed provisions of the Move-Over Law in the agency's statement. He said for police officers in particular, unsafe drivers, who disregard the state rule, present "one of the greatest perils of wearing a uniform."

"Our officers observe careless driving nearly every time they make a traffic stop or motorist assist," said Dallas. "Anyone who works our roadways is at risk, but our traffic enforcement details are in constant danger. Unfortunately, violations of Georgia's Move-Over Law are still far too common, and police still experience too many close calls with too many aggressive drivers."

The GOHS cited national statistics that indicate that 1,000 drivers are killed every year in work-zone crashes, and another 40,000 occupants of passenger vehicles are seriously injured in such incidents annually.

Lt. Paul Cosper, a spokesman for the Georgia State Patrol (GSP), said, although his agency was not actively involved in the concentrated patrols Wednesday, state troopers are in full support of what the police departments associated with the project are trying to accomplish.

"Concentrated patrols are for areas where police have experienced a lot of problems," said Cosper. "When we see a pattern of accidents and speed complaints in the same location, that's why law enforcement goes into these areas."

He added that speed-enforcement details do more than protect the public from unsafe drivers. According to Cosper, similar operations have led to the apprehension of impaired drivers, as well as individuals not wearing seat belts while behind the wheel. "It's all in the name of safety," he said. "We do speed enforcement every day, and I think we do a good job of it."

Cosper said that in order for police agencies to enforce traffic laws well, assistance from the public is vital. He encouraged anyone traveling for the July 4 holiday, especially, to be aware of their surroundings while on the road, and to contact authorities regarding suspected violations of traffic laws.