Spring break travelers cruising down U.S. Highway 431 should keep a close eye on the speedometer.

Thanks to a $25,000 grant from Southeast Alabama Medical Center in Dothan the Barbour County Sheriff's Department will be out in force as part of Operation Spring Break.

"This is a grant directed toward spring break traffic on Highway 431," Barbour County Sheriff Leroy Upshaw said. "During spring break there's always a lot of traffic on 431. There's a lot of speeding, a lot of drunk driving and a lot of accidents. This grant will allow us to be out on the highway more than we would normally be able to, which will make the road safer for everyone."

According to Upshaw, the grant will help cover the overtime cost of keeping the deputies on the highway during spring break.

"We would not be able to have our deputies on the road that much without the grant," Upshaw said.

"The (Barbour) County Commission can't afford to pay the extra money, so this is a way to offset the cost, and give my deputies a chance to earn some extra money."

One provision of the grant is that the Barbour County Sheriff's Department issues a minimum of two citations per hour during the week.

The citations can be for anything from speeding to following too closely behind another vehicle to having no tag lights.

"There's any number of things that the citations can be for, but in order to receive the grant we have to maintain two contacts per hour," Upshaw said. "Those contacts have to result in a citation, but it can be for anything. It doesn't necessarily have to be for speeding."

According to Upshaw, he and his deputies will also be keeping an eye out for drugs being transported along Highway 431 during spring break.

"There are a lot of drugs that are carried up and down 431 during spring break," he said. "That's something that we will be looking out for. Anytime we pull someone over for an illegal traffic infraction we can use our ability to establish probable cause. If I smell marijuana coming from the car that gives me reason to search the car. That's just one example of how a routine stop can lead to probable cause to search. We'll definitely be looking out for drugs."

The grant is the second grant the sheriff's department has received from SEAMC.

Earlier, the Sheriff's Department was awarded a $20,000 as part of Project 431.

"That grant is the reason people have see our deputies' cars on 431 more," Upshaw said. "That money has helped us to cover some of the overtime costs."

©Eufaula Tribune 2007