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Police urge safety during holiday

CONYERS - Temperatures are rising and local law enforcement are turning up the heat on impaired and reckless drivers.

The Covington Police Department and the Newton County Sheriff's Office are teaming up with other agencies across the state for the 100 Days of Summer HEAT, which stands for Highway Enforcement of Aggressive Traffic.

HEAT is a multijurisdictional highway safety enforcement strategy designed to reduce high-fatality crash counts throughout the summer months, generally beginning around Memorial Day and lasting until Labor Day, according to a press release from the Governor's Office of Highway Safety.

HEAT enforcement, along with the statewide Click It or Ticket safety belt campaign, began Monday.

"Why? Because speed kills," said GOHS Director Bob Dallas in the statement. "Our highway safety data shows speed, impaired driving and unbuckled drivers and passengers are still the top three causes of fatality crashes, not only during the summer holidays, but throughout the year."

The GOHS promises that the Summer HEAT crackdown is "one of the longest, toughest (and) most ambitious" highway safety initiatives ever launched.

"The message to Georgia's high-risk drivers is clear," Dallas said. "Safety belt, DUI and speed law violations will not be tolerated. So once again, it's time to buckle up, secure the kids in their safety seats, drive sober and obey the speed limits during the summer holiday driving period."

AAA has predicted that 757,000 Georgians and about 32.4 million Americans will travel by car this Memorial Day due to gas prices averaging $2 less per gallon than they were last year at this time.

Even with an estimated 89 percent of Georgians who report using seat belts, the Georgia State Patrol estimates as many as 2,725 traffic crashes resulting in 875 injuries and 18 traffic deaths over the long Memorial Day weekend.

Last year, 2,480 traffic crashes, 12 of those involving fatalities, were reported over the 78-hour-travel period, GOHS stated.

Local authorities will do their part to keep the roads safe for everyone.

"We're going to be out with both our traffic unit and patrol unit. They will be looking at seat belts, doing DUI detection, and looking for speeders and reckless drivers," said Lt. Mark Mitchell with the Newton County Sheriff's Office. "We're really trying to slow down vehicles and reduce the amount of DUI drivers. And we'll be conducting several roadblocks in various areas of the county in an effort to save lives and create a safer holiday weekend for all citizens."

Mitchell said NCSO will be working in conjunction with troopers from the Georgia State Patrol Post 46 in Conyers.

Newton Citizen News Editor Barbara Knowles contributed to this article.

Aimee Jones can be reached at aimee.jones@rockdalecitizen.com.