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Posted: September 4, 2009 12:01 a.m.

NCSO cracks down on Labor Day DUIs

The summer holidays are something to celebrate. But they have a deadly reputation on the road because too many summer party-people leave their designated drivers behind at the barbecue. And that means too many Georgians will die in alcohol-related crashes during the Labor Day weekend. There’s a traffic fatality every thirteen minutes on America’s crash clock with no time off for holidays.

In 2007 more than 13,000 people died in highway crashes involving drivers with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher. The FBI projected 1.5 million nationwide DUI arrests that year. Across the country drunk driving persists as one of America’s deadliest crimes.

Georgia’s crash data calendar shows the summer travel period here is one of the most dangerous times on our highways. Georgia DOT reports 1,660 traffic crashes last Labor Day just during the 78-hour travel period around the holiday. Nineteen people died and another 798 Georgians were injured. In 2007 more than a thousand people were injured while traveling on Georgia highways during the same Labor Day holiday period.

To Georgia’s highway safety professionals, the causes behind those Labor Day holiday fatalities sound all too familiar: alcohol and drugs are usually identified as major contributing factors and about half the crash victims are unbuckled when they die.

"The sad fact is one-out-of-three of our fatal highway crashes in Georgia each year is caused by impaired drivers. And every one of those tragic alcohol-related deaths is completely preventable," said Director Bob Dallas of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety.

The Newton County Sheriff’s Office will be conducting checkpoints throughout the county in an effort to reduce traffic accidents caused by impaired drivers. The Sheriff’s Office is planning to conduct checkpoints at many different locations in Newton County during the holiday weekend.

In Georgia the mobilization is called Operation Zero Tolerance because even first time violators go to jail. OZT means you never receive just a warning or citation. Impaired motorists caught driving at or over the 0.08 limit are arrested. In Georgia, it’s "over the limit. Under arrest."

Georgia’s statewide Operation Zero Tolerance holiday enforcement crackdown began Friday, Aug. 21, and runs through Monday, Sept. 7. It’s not about writing more tickets; it’s about saving more lives.

Whether meeting friends after work or traveling the holiday barbecue circuit, friends should never let friends drive drunk. Remember to designate a sober driver in advance — before the Labor Day festivities begin.

What can you do to protect your family on the highway this summer? Your best protection against a deadly encounter with a drunk driver is a buckled safety belt. So buckle-up. Slow down. Drive sober. Labor Day weekend is every Georgian’s last celebration of summer. Don’t let it be your very last.

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