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State awards Barrow highway safety initiative $73K

WINDER -- Note to impaired or distracted drivers: Thanks to a recent grant, the Barrow County Sheriff's Office will continue to bring the H.E.A.T.

The Georgia Governor's Office of Highway Safety recently awarded the Barrow department more than $73,000 for its H.E.A.T., or Highway Enforcement of Aggressive Traffic, program. The state office handed the department substantially less -- $43,000 -- last year.

The H.E.A.T. program aims to develop and implement strategies to reduce crashes, injuries and fatalities. Primary points of focus will be speeding and impaired drivers, as well as those who neglect to wear seat belts, officials said.

Sheriff's Office spokesman Sgt. Ryan Sears said the grant is a 50 percent county match and will cover the salary for one H.E.A.T. deputy, along with maintenance for two vehicles used in the program, equipment costs and travel expenses for H.E.A.T. deputies to attend an annual conference.

H.E.A.T. programs cover 22 Georgia counties and include the Duluth Police Department, which in 2007 was awarded more than $74,000 from the state.

The initiative, which covers most of metro Atlanta, was designed to serve Georgia jurisdictions with the highest rate of crashes, injuries and deaths.

In addition to dangerous driving crackdowns, the initiative seeks to "educate the public about the dangers of DUI and provide a high-visibility profile in the communities that need it most," said GOHS director Harris Blackwood.

Blackwood said crashes involving impaired drivers killed 331 people in Georgia in 2009.