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'Halloween H.E.A.T.' campaign kicks off in Georgia

By Jason A. Smith

jsmith@henryherald.com

As the Halloween weekend approaches, state and local law-enforcement agencies are working to ensure Georgia's roads are not filled with fright.

The Governor's Office of Highway Safety (GOHS) is reminding motorists to drive safely, for themselves and others, during the Halloween weekend. Officers from several metropolitan Atlanta counties, including Henry and Clayton, will participate with the Georgia State Patrol in a "Halloween H.E.A.T." campaign from Friday through Sunday, according to GOHS Director Bob Dallas.

H.E.A.T is an acronym for "Highway Enforcement of Aggressive Traffic."

Dallas said the month of October typically has the highest number of crashes with fatalities recorded by his agency each year. The month, he added, is "capped off" by Halloween.

"Spooky costumes and ghoulish pranks are no longer the scariest part of Halloween," Dallas said. "It's an especially dangerous night to be on the road, and no party is worth dying for."

Many Halloween drivers in recent years, he said, appear to have had too much drink, thus heightening the need for increased patrols by law enforcement. More than half of all traffic crashes in Georgia on Halloween night are alcohol-related, according to Dallas.

"Ask any DUI task force why they're a 'buzz kill' when it comes to Halloween, and they'll tell you just to take a look at how Georgians, who drive drunk, have transformed Halloween into a real-life horror show," said Dallas. "We're focusing on Halloween because we find that too many adults are drinking and then getting behind the wheel during this celebration time."

He said during the 2008 Halloween period, six people were killed in Georgia, and 31 others suffered serious injuries. Seven deaths, and 15 serious injuries, were recorded by the GOHS during the same time frame in 2007, said Dallas.

"It's frightening that these numbers continue at this rate," he said. "Unlike an evening of fright-night specials, real people don't walk away from a nightmare encounter with a drunk driver."

The GOHS is coordinating efforts with 16 traffic-enforcement networks in Georgia during the Halloween period, said the director. Police will conduct road checks and patrols, as well as watch for speeders and drivers who do not maintain their lanes, in order to locate intoxicated drivers, he added.

The Henry County Police Departmsent's Special Operations Division (SOD) is doing its part to ensure safety on the roads during the Halloween weekend, according to Police Maj. Jason Bolton.

"The SOD will be conducting road checks throughout the county, Thursday through Saturday, along with extra patrols, including the H.E.A.T. unit," Bolton said.