ATLANTA—The Georgia Department of Public Safety (DPS) has been awarded a traffic safety H.E.A.T. grant from the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety (GOHS). The grant is for approximately $2.37 million, and will provide funding to continue the Georgia State Patrol (GSP) Nighthawks DUI Task Force and Administrative License Suspension (ALS) 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; to increase seatbelt use; and to educate the motoring public on traffic safety and the dangers of driving under the influence.
The grant went into effect on October 1, 2015 and will continue until September 30, 2016. 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 Colonel Mark McDonough and his staff for their continued hard work,” he added.
The ALS program and the GSP Nighthawks DUI Taskforce were created in 2004. Through the ALS program, state troopers receive training, legal assistance, and in some cases, legal representation as they testify at ALS 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 represents troopers at the ALS 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 the fall of 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 also 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 Colonel Mark W. McDonough, Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Safety
As law enforcement partners in the Operation Zero Tolerance DUI and Click It or Ticket seatbelt campaigns, the Department of Public Safety will also conduct mobilizations throughout the year in coordination with GOHS’s year-round waves of high visibility patrols, multi-jurisdictional roadchecks and sobriety checkpoints.
For more information about the H.E.A.T. program or any other GOHS campaign, visit www.gahighwaysafety.org or call 404-656-6996.