HEAT hits the streets

LAWRENCEVILLE - Beginning Monday, police across the state will start ramping up an annual crackdown on speeders, unbuckled motorists and impaired drivers.

Dubbed "100 Days of Summer HEAT (Highway Enforcement of Aggressive Traffic), the program incorporates road checks and

concentrated patrols. The program typically lasts from the Friday before Memorial Day until after Labor Day, but it begins a week early this year, said Jim Shuler, spokesman for the Governor's Office of Highway Safety.

Officials hope the "preview" this week will help drivers start slowing down even sooner and paying more attention to traffic laws.

"High-visibility patrols definitely have a calming effect on drivers' speed. But in addition to that, when we put a lot of law enforcement on the road we're also asking them to do sobriety checkpoints and safety belt road checks," Shuler said.

The start of 100 Days of Summer HEAT also coincides with the national "Click-It-Or-Ticket" campaign, a focus on seat belt enforcement that was advertised aggressively last week on television and radio.

Police want the public to know they'll be out in force because summer can be the most deadly time of year on Georgia roads. The quick succession of Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day means more people are taking road trips, and consequently more automobile accidents occur. With kids out of school for the summer, those months are also the perfect time for family vacations, Shuler said.

Last year, 35 people were killed in Georgia over Labor Day weekend, which was double the number of fatalities in 2004.

"Most drivers still don't understand that exceeding the posted speed limits can be a killer," Shuler said. "Georgia data shows unsafe and illegal speed ranks right up there with impaired driving and failure to buckle up as the top three causes of our fatality crashes."

Law enforcement will focus on interstates and major highways most of the time, Shuler said. For those driving within Gwinnett County, this means Interstates 85 and 985, Ga. Highways 316, 120 and 20, Pleasant Hill Road, Peachtree Industrial Boulevard and Jimmy Carter Boulevard, said Cpl. Darren Moloney, spokesman for the Gwinnett County Police Department.

"During the holidays, more people on the road and more people to tend to drink and party, so we do tend to focus on those areas when we can," Moloney said.

Venturing out of the county or even the state will bring motorists no reprieve from the watchful eye of police. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration coordinates similar summer traffic enforcement campaigns across the country, Shuler said.

"I am sure that daily travels carry (Gwinnett residents) outside of Gwinnett County, so they will be encountering this most everywhere else they drive," Shuler said. "They need to be aware and pay attention."