Slow down this week or prepare for tickets

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By Blenda Copeland

To all lead-footed drivers and everyone else: this is your warning!

Until Sunday, July 22, law enforcement officers in five Southern states – Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee and South Carolina – will be extra vigilant in patrolling traffic on interstates, major highways and local roads. They’ll be concentrating on speeders driving above the legal limit, but will be ready to write tickets for other traffic-related offenses too.

The heightened crackdown began yesterday, July 16. Officers cited this period of summer as a time when many families are making their last beach trips before school resumes in August.

The public is reminded that in Georgia it’s now illegal to drive and hold mobile devices at the same time. Which basically means, use the hands-free Bluetooth technology in your car – or, don’t use mobile devices while driving. The public is also reminded that Alabama is watching for distracted drivers too.

“The same prohibition (of) using your cell phone is also in effect in Alabama,” said Phenix City, Ala., Police Chief Ray Smith in an interview Tuesday. He said in Georgia, the mere sight of someone driving and holding a cell phone is enough to generate an automatic distracted driving ticket. Alabama has a similar distracted driving law. Smith said speeding ticket costs vary depending on the specific infraction(s), but generally speaking, a standard speeding ticket in Alabama or Georgia could cost an offender around $180-$250 or more.

Smith noted that law enforcement’s intention this week is safety.

“We’re not revenue collectors,” he said. The point of this week’s increased enforcement is to get people’s attention and slow drivers down. This is a busy time for traffic and too many hospitalizations and deaths have occurred because of speeding.

According to a Governor’s Office of Highway Safety media release, there were 25 traffic deaths reported in Georgia during Operation Southern Shield last year (July 17-23, 2017). The release cited that Georgia State Patrol troopers and local law enforcement officers issued together 12,469 speeding citations over the seven-day special enforcement event and took 552 suspected Driving Under the Influence (DUI) drivers to jail. There were 472 felony arrests made during that period.