The Georgia State Patrol has been awarded a traffic safety H.E.A.T. grant of almost $1.8 million from the Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety. The grant provides funding for GSP to continue the Nighthawks DUI Task Force as well as the department’s Administrative License Suspension (ALS) Program.
H.E.A.T, which stands for Highway Enforcement of Aggressive Traffic, includes the primary goals of reducing impaired driving crashes; reducing excessive speeding; increasing the safety belt usage rate; and educating the public about traffic safety. The grant went into effect on Oct. 1 of this year and will continue until Sept. 30 of next year.
“The H.E.A.T. grant helps support the Georgia State Patrol’s enforcement efforts and is a reminder of their dedication in supporting the GOHS mission to protect Georgians from speeders and impaired drivers,” said GOHS Director Harris Blackwood. “Crashes involving impaired drivers killed 331 people across Georgia in 2009. The chance of a fatal crash involving drivers impaired by drugs or alcohol is much higher than the rate for fatal crashes not related to impairment.”
The ALS program and the GSP Nighthawks were created in 2004. Under the ALS program, Georgia State troopers receive training, legal assistance and, in some cases, legal representation as they testify at administrative 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 ALS hearing is held when the motorist contests the suspension.
Former prosecutor Dee Brophy is the ALS attorney who developed the program and represents troopers at the ALS hearings.
The GSP Nighthawks Task Force is composed of two teams of Georgia State Troopers who have undergone specialized training in impaired driving enforcement. The Nighthawks began patrols in the fall of 2004 in Fulton, Cobb, Clayton, DeKalb and Gwinnett counties during the peak hours for impaired drivers.
In 2009, the Nighthawks added six troopers to the metro team and also formed a team to patrol the Savannah-Statesboro area.
Additionally, Nighthawk troopers patrol in the Athens-Clarke County area.
Impaired drivers account for almost one-third of the traffic deaths on Georgia roads each year and the effort to reduce the number of impaired driving fatal crashes is one of the objectives of the Nighthawk DUI Task Force.