Motorists who think they can drive faster than the legal speed limit without getting pulled over could soon see blue lights in the rearview mirror as Georgia joins a multi-state effort to reduce traffic deaths by getting drivers to follow the posted speed limit.
"Operation Southern Shield" began Monday and is a week-long speed prevention and enforcement initiative on interstates, major highways and local roads in Georgia, Alabama, Florida, South Carolina and Tennessee.
"When you cash a check for $50 at the bank, they don't give you $60," Harris Blackwood, director of the Governor's Office of Highway Safety said. "Drivers who exceed the posted speed limit by 10 miles an hour or more increase their chances of being in a crash because the faster speeds reduce their reaction times and ability to stop suddenly."
In Georgia, the number of speeding-related fatalities has almost doubled from 2012-2015. According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA, there were 268 speeding-related fatalities in 2015 in the state, which was a 25 percent increase from 2014.
Preliminary numbers from the Georgia Department of Transportation show there were 1,561 people killed in traffic crashes in 2016, which is the second consecutive year the number of traffic deaths in the state has increased after those numbers had declined for nine straight years.
According to NHTSA, speeding was a factor in 27 percent of the fatal crashes in the United States in 2015 that killed 9,553 people, and almost half of the fatal speeding-related crashes in the nation happened on rural non-interstate roads.
NHTSA considers a crash to be speeding-related if any driver involved in the crash was charged with a speeding-related offense, or if a law enforcement officer found exceeding the posted speed limit, driving too fast for conditions or racing was a contributing factor in the crash.
"Operation Southern Shield is a very worthwhile endeavor because speeding is a major contributing factor to fatal crashes in the state of Georgia," Colonel Mark McDonough, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Safety said. "Our objective over the next week is to make the public aware and to encourage them to slow down and drive safely.”
"By publicizing this operation now, we want drivers across the southeast to choose on their own to obey the speed limit," Blackwood said. "Drivers who follow the law will have nothing to worry about, but those who keep their foot on the accelerator run the risk of getting a ticket."