As travelers get ready to pack up their cars and hit the road this holiday season, the Georgia State Patrol is warning them to slow down, as it will be heavily enforcing speed limits, targeting even the slightest of speeders.
Cpl. Jeremiah Slayton, stationed at the Georgia State Patrol Post 46 in Monroe, said this year GSP command staff around Georgia is placing more emphasis on speed enforcement. He said the State Patrol has lowered the threshold for speeders, targeting drivers who are anywhere from just 1 mile to 14 miles over posted speed limits.
"If you are running 56 in a 45 (mph zone), you're probably going to get stopped, whereas before you wouldn't have gotten an eye at you," Slayton said. "We're trying to get the number down, obviously, because it goes back to crashes. "
"We are just trying to reduce or minimize the injuries sustained in crashes, because obviously the higher the speed, the more violent the injury," Slayton said. "Instead of going for the big fish, the 65 in 45, we're going to start stopping the smaller ones."
Slayton said targeting speeders won't be just a holiday-season initiative, either. GSP officials, he said, have found that a lot of people who are breaking the law, driving under a suspended license or while impaired, for example, oftentimes stay within 10 mph or so of the speed limit.
"Our actual custodial arrests have increased because we are stopping for 55 in a 45, with pretty much the intention to give them a warning ... but we find out that their license is suspended, or they are wanted or under the influence," Slayton said. "We're ticketing the people who need to be ticketed and taking the people to jail who need to be taken to jail at that point."
"A lot of people out there may think it's petty, but the speed limit is just that. It's a limit," Slayton said. "People are under the misconception that they can do 55 or 59 in a 45 and get away with it because over the years, the law enforcement threshold has just gone up and up and up."
In addition to speeders, Slayton said, GSP is targeting drivers under the influence, especially those using prescription drugs.
"DUI suppression ... that's always been a goal of ours. We're kind of bringing it back to the forefront, especially on holidays," Slayton said.
"Folks don't realize they can get DUIs on prescription drugs, which may have warning labels (that say), ‘Don't operate a vehicle or heavy machinery.'"
"When it comes court time and months have gone by, even a year, and they've hired an attorney and everything ... you put a 75-year-old lady up there that's running off the road and everything else and you put her up there in front of a 12 panel jury or a six man jury, they're probably going to acquit her because somebody on that jury is like, ‘Well I take prescription medication like that too. I didn't know'....but it is a problem," Slayton said.
Slayton also noted that drivers should be mindful of safety restraints. He said front-seat passengers and anyone under the age of 18 should wear a seatbelt. Children under age 8 should be in a child safety seat that supports the child's weight and height.
Slayton said all GSP officials are child-safety seat technicians and there will soon be events held to show how to install a safety seat properly. He said the role of GSP is not just for enforcement efforts, but also public safety.