Florida, Georgia agencies set up checkpoints to prevent highway deaths

Hands Across Borders campaign focuses on preventing careless driving, DUIs

By Erik Avanier - Reporter, Destiny McKeiver - Multi-media journalist, Elizabeth Campbell - Reporter

Law enforcement agencies in Florida and Georgia began upping patrols along the state line Thursday for the annual Hands Across Borders campaign.

The Florida Highway Patrol and the Georgia State Patrol are taking part in the annual enforcement effort, which has been going on for 26 years. The operation was originally held around Labor Day weekend, but now takes place close to the start of summer. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, the number of deadly wrecks involving teenagers climbs 15 percent during the 100 days of summer between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

According to the National Safety Council, by June of last year, Florida law enforcement officials had investigated nearly 1,600 road fatalities. During the same time period in Georgia, the numbers were slightly less.

Law enforcement officials along the border of both states are looking to prevent roadside deaths by joining forces. FHP and GSP held a news conference Thursday at the Georgia welcome center on Interstate 95 to announce the joint enforcement effort.  By 1 p.m., officials were out in full force looking for speeders and distracted drivers.

"They need to work together," said Maj. Steven Harris, FHP troop commander for northeast Florida. "To have consistency to try to drive down those fatalities, enforce efforts such as seat belt violations, speeding violations, enforcing DUI laws, distracted driver laws and move over laws."

During the operation, drivers can expect increased police visibility on highways and byways. They can also expect multijurisdictional DUI checkpoints at various locations that have yet to be disclosed.

“I think it’s important for us to be able to catch more of those people, because I know a lot of people who have personally been hit by a drunk driver," tourist Mollie McGraw said. "My aunt and uncle just recently were run into by a drunk driver in the middle of the day.”

People will also notice an increased visibility of cops looking for speeding and unlicensed drivers.

“I think it’s great, and I think (the) more visibility, the better,” Sherry Michaels said.

While more authorities are looking for speeding violations, they are also searching for distracted drivers, especially people who are texting while driving.

“We’ve seen an awful lot of that on the road, so it’s a good idea, especially when it comes to texting and driving," George Driscoll said. "I have an insurance background in claims and I’m retired. We saw more claims, by far, from texting and driving, losing attention at the wheel and having an accident.”

South Carolina, Tennessee and other states across the nation are also participating in Hands Across Borders, which will last through this weekend.

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