ATLANTA — The Georgia Department of Public Safety has been awarded a traffic safety H.E.A.T. grant from the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety. The grant is for approximately $2.37 million and will provide funding to continue the Georgia State Patrol Nighthawks DUI Task Force and Administrative License Suspension program.
The primary goals of H.E.A.T, or Highway Enforcement of Aggressive Traffic program, are to combat crashes, injuries and fatalities caused by impaired driving and speeding; increase seat-belt use; and educate the public on traffic safety and the dangers of driving under the influence.
The grant went into effect Oct. 1 and will continue until Sept. 30. DPS was one of 17 law enforcement agencies in Georgia to receive a H.E.A.T grant for the 2015 grant season.
“The Department of Public Safety received this H.E.A.T. grant because they have shown a particular dedication to protecting their citizens from impaired drivers,” said GOHS Director Harris Blackwood. “This dedication is crucial because alcohol-related crash deaths still account for 25 percent of traffic fatalities in Georgia. We are grateful to Col. Mark McDonough and his staff for their continued hard work.”
The license suspension program and the GSP Nighthawks DUI Taskforce were created in 2004. Through the suspension program, state troopers receive training, legal assistance and, in some cases, legal representation as they testify at license suspension hearings for people charged with driving under the influence.
In Georgia, under certain circumstances, the state can administratively suspend the driver’s license, and the hearing is held when the motorist contests the suspension. Former prosecutor Dee Brophy is the Administrative License Suspension attorney who represents troopers at the hearings.
The GSP Nighthawks DUI Task Force is composed of three teams of troopers who have undergone specialized training in impaired-driving enforcement.
The Nighthawks began patrols in fall 2004 during the peak hours for impaired drivers in Fulton, Cobb, Clayton, DeKalb, and Gwinnett counties. In
2009, the Nighthawks added six troopers to the metro team and formed a team to patrol the Savannah-Statesboro area. Additionally, Nighthawk troopers patrol the Athens-Clarke County area. In 2012, a third team was formed to patrol in Macon and Columbus.
“Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for law enforcement officers to encounter an impaired driver. Our agency is committed to promoting safe driving practices by removing these drivers from our roads.
This grant is a benefit to both GOHS and DPS as we work together toward the common goal of deterring impaired driving on Georgia’s roads,” said McDonough, the DPS commissioner.
As law enforcement partners in the Operation Zero Tolerance DUI and Click It or Ticket seat-belt campaigns, the DPS will also conduct mobilizations throughout the year in coordination with GOHS’s year-round waves of high-visibility patrols, multijurisdictional road checks and sobriety checkpoints.
For more information about the H.E.A.T. program or any other GOHS campaign, go to www.gahighwaysafety.org or call 404-656-6996.