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Georgia State Patrol Deploys DUI Task Force to Savannah-Statesboro Area

ATLANTA, Ga., (December 15, 2009) – The Georgia State Patrol announced today the deployment of a DUI task force to patrol the Savannah-Statesboro area in an effort to reduce the number of impaired driving crashes in the areas. The south Georgia task force, part of the nationally-recognized Nighthawks team, began patrols the weekend before Thanksgiving and team members made 40 arrests for driving under the influence in the first two days of patrols.

Colonel Bill Hitchens, Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Safety, said the task force members will concentrate their efforts during the peak times impaired drivers are most likely to be on the roads. “Impaired driving is not confined to summer nights, but is a problem across the country every day of the year,” Colonel Hitchens said. “Sadly, there are people who still choose to drive while impaired and pose a danger to others and themselves.”

Members of the Savannah-Statesboro task force team were selected from troopers in the coastal Georgia area.

The announcement comes as the Georgia State Patrol is conducting a month-long crackdown on impaired driving across the state. Roughly one-third of the traffic deaths each year in Georgia involve an alcohol or drug impaired driver. “Reducing that number is a priority for the Nighthawks,” the Commissioner added.

The Nighthawks began patrols in the Atlanta area in 2004 and this year added six troopers to the metro Atlanta team in addition to forming the Savannah team. In 2005, the Nighthawk DUI Task Force was recognized by the International Association of Chiefs of Police as the outstanding DUI team in the nation.

Funding for the task force expansion is being provided with a $1.8 million Highway Enforcement of Aggressive Traffic (H.E.A.T.) grant from the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety. The grant also allows the Georgia State Patrol to continue funding for its Administrative License Suspension (ALS) Program. As part of the ALS program, Georgia State Troopers receive training, legal assistance and, in some cases, legal representation as they testify at Administrative License Suspension hearings for people charged with driving under the influence. In Georgia, under certain circumstances, the State can administratively suspend the driver’s license and the ALS hearing is held when the motorist contests the suspension. Former prosecutor Dee Brophy is the ALS attorney who developed the program and represents troopers at the ALS hearings.