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 $3.16 million, and will provide funding to continue the Georgia State Patrol (GSP) Nighthawks DUI Task Force and Administrative License Suspension (ALS) program. The grant went into effect on October 1, 2016 and will continue until September 30, 2017.
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.
“Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for law enforcement officers to encounter an impaired driver. DPS is committed to removing these drivers from our roads. This grant is a benefit to both GOHS and DPS to achieve the common goal of deterring impaired driving on Georgia’s roads,” said Colonel Mark W. McDonough, Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Safety.
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. Dee Brophy, a former prosecutor, 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.