Drive safely, drive sober, say officials

by Wes Mayer

Local law enforcement is reminding everyone to avoid drinking and driving at all costs this holiday season, and when on the road, remain cautious and patient around other drivers.

“Right now, prior to Monday and Tuesday, drivers need to be especially careful,” said Coweta County Sheriff Mike Yeager. “Give yourself time, be very observant and watch the other drivers.

“Our guys are going to be out,” he said. “And not just us — the State Patrol, Newnan police, Grantville and Senoia as well — and it’s going to be zero tolerance if you choose to drink and drive.”

The Governor’s Office of Highway Safety has launched Operation Zero Tolerance campaign, which will carry through New Year’s. In a press release from the GOHS, the office listed the consequences and risks of driving impaired — drunk drivers often face jail time, may lose their driver’s license, may have to pay fees or higher insurance rates, or worse, cause an accident which may claim someone’s life, or their own.

“The December holiday season is the most wonderful time of the year and we are going to keep our roads safe for holiday travelers heading to visit family and friends,” said GOHS Director Harris Blackwood. “This holiday and every day, we are showing zero tolerance for drunk drivers. If you choose to drive drunk, you will get caught, you will be pulled over and you will be arrested.”

According to the release, any drivers pulled over who exceed the blood alcohol content of 0.08 will be arrested and transported to jail. Between 2007 and 2011, a total of 4,169 people lost their lives in accidents involving a driver with a BAC above 0.08, GOHS officials said in the release. GOHS officials also included Georgia crash statistics from last year — between Nov. 20 and Dec. 31 there were 1,119 alcohol-related accidents in Georgia that resulted in 679 injuries and 20 deaths.

“It’s unfortunate during the holidays, people go to parties, and they don’t think about the consequences of drinking and getting behind the wheel,” said Newnan Police Chief Douglas “Buster” Meadows. “Be sure to have a designated driver who is not drinking any alcohol at all.”

This year, the GOHS is partnering with TEAM Georgia to remind Georgians not to use the holidays as an excuse to drive drunk.

“Recent statistics indicate that alcohol-related crash fatalities in Georgia increased last year by 301 incidents — an 11 percent increase over the previous year,” said TEAM Georgia Chairman Ron Fennel. “This statistic is clearly moving in the wrong direction. As we approach this holiday season, we must all double our efforts and make sure all holiday well-wishers have a safe and sober ride home.”

Although, drunk driving is a large issue, it is not the only thing impairing drivers on the road.

“I’ll be driving around, and I see phones as the biggest distraction,” Yeager said. “Take the time to set your phones down and get to where you’re going.”

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