Impaired drivers and other careless motorists may run afoul of the law in and around Athens, as the Athens-Clarke County police are taking part in the H.E.A.T. program.
The acronym stands for Highway Enforcement of Aggressive Traffic, and three additional units have been dedicated to making streets safer by stepping up traffic enforcement and educating motorists. Through a grant issued by the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, these additional police units are staffed by officers whose salaries also stem from the grant.
The primary goal of the H.E.A.T. program is taking action against the collisions, injuries and deaths that result from impaired and speeding drivers, together with expanding the use of seat belts and teaching the public about the dangers of impaired driving.
The director of GOHS said that the Athens-Clarke County law enforcement agencies were chosen as recipients of the H.E.A.T. grants “because they have shown a particular dedication to protecting their citizens from impaired drivers.” He added that a quarter of the state’s traffic deaths were attributed to alcohol usage.
This year, a total of $3.2 million was allocated for the H.E.A.T. grants in locations having the highest rates of impaired drivers causing injuries and deaths in accidents. More than half of the deaths in wrecks over the past few years in Clarke County were attributed to intoxicated motorists, a trend that is also reflected on a national level.
Already in 2015 in Athens-Clarke County, 13 people have died in fatal accidents, four more than the total last year for 2014. While not all investigations have been completed, police anticipate that eight of the 13 will be tied to driver impairment.
The H.E.A.T. patrols lead to additional traffic stops, but not all stops end in a driver’s arrest.
More traffic stops might be being made with the H.E.A.T. units on the road, but not every stop is going to result in an arrest. There are no ticket quotas, and each H.E.A.T. officer has materials for educating drivers about the hazards of impaired and aggressive driving.
Just because an officer suspects impairment does not mean a driver has been drinking or taking drugs, however. As a good criminal defense attorney can often show, there are legitimate defenses available to those accused of DUI in Georgia.
Source: Athens Banner-Herald, “Athens police turning up the H.E.A.T. on traffic enforcement,” Joe Johnson, Oct. 16, 2015