State, local officials: Drive impaired over 4th, go to jail

·4 min read

Jul. 1—ATLANTA — Gov. Brian Kemp is joining state troopers, game wardens, and local law enforcement officers in asking everyone to prevent DUI crashes on the road and water this July 4th holiday weekend by choosing not to get behind the wheel when they have had too much to drink.

Kemp spoke at the State Capitol in Atlanta at the beginning of a one-day statewide tour by the Georgia State Patrol, Georgia Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Division, and the Governor's Office of Highway Safety, to remind everyone that state and local law enforcement will be working this holiday weekend to prevent crashes by arresting all drunk and drugged drivers and watercraft operators they find. It is against the law in Georgia for anyone 21 years of age or older to operate a vehicle, boat or watercraft if their blood alcohol level is .08 or higher, and it is against Georgia law for persons under 21 to consume alcoholic beverages.

The Georgia State Patrol, GOHS H.E.A.T. units, and local agencies are participating in the national "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over" impaired driving prevention mobilization this weekend. These agencies will work to take drunk and drugged drivers off the road, as well as putting the brakes on speeding, reckless driving, distracted driving, and other behaviors that have led to an increase in traffic deaths in Georgia over the last year. The number of traffic deaths reported in Georgia through the first six months of this year is 21 percent higher than for the same time period in 2020.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources will take part in the annual "Operation Dry Water" national enforcement and awareness campaign on July 2-4. Game Wardens will be conducting safety inspections for boats and watercraft this weekend and will arrest any operators who are under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

"All drunk driving deaths are senseless because they can all be prevented by everyone making the smart decision to not get behind the wheel when they know they have had too much to drink," Governor's Office of Highway Safety Director Allen Poole said. "These officers know every drunk or drugged driver they take off the road is at least one life they have potentially saved and likely one crash they have prevented."

This is the second consecutive year the July 4th holiday falls on a weekend. Eleven people were reported killed in traffic crashes in Georgia on July 4th last year, which according to NHTSA data, was the most traffic deaths on July 4 in Georgia in more than 15 years.

According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, one-third of the 71 fatal motor vehicle crashes that have happened in Georgia on July 4th between 2005-19 have involved a driver whose blood-alcohol level was above the legal limit, and 20 percent of those crashes have involved a driver whose blood-alcohol level was twice the legal limit.

"Driving under the influence is unacceptable," Col. Chris Wright, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Safety, said. "We remind drivers to make traffic safety a priority on each trip, every single day. Obey the posted speed limits, do not text and drive, do not drive impaired, and always buckle up. Wearing your seat belt is the single most important thing you can do to help save your life in a crash."

According to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, 12 people were killed, and 97 injured in 137 boating incidents on Georgia waters in 2020. Game Wardens also made 237 BUI arrests, with 45 percent of those arrests taking place on lakes Lanier and Allatoona.

"Last year, Game Wardens arrested 237 people for boating under the influence. We have already arrested 112 this year," Col. Thomas Barnard, director of the Law Enforcement Division for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. "I want to warn those who believe that getting behind the wheel while under the influence of drugs or alcohol is not a big deal. I plead with you to reconsider. Making that poor choice is just not worth the risk to yourself or to others."

According to NHTSA, a DUI arrest could cost someone up to $10,000 in court fees, fines, and higher insurance premiums and could lead to someone being terminated from their job. A DUI conviction could prevent a job applicant from being hired.

The Governor's Office of Highway Safety, GOHS H.E.A.T. units, Georgia State Patrol, NHTSA offer the following tips to help prevent drunk driving crashes:

—Arrange a ride with a sober designated driver, ride-share or cab before the celebration begins;

—Offer to be the designated driver;

—Invite guests to spend the night or call for a sober ride for them;

—Let friends or family know you will give them ride no matter when they need one;

—Always wear your seat belt. Seat belts offer the best protection in the event of a crash.