January 1, 2007
AUGUSTA, Ga.---A night of partying leads to a night of drunk drivers.
Deputies made arrest after arrest on New Year's Eve in an attempt to keep the roads safe for everyone.
News 12 was there to catch it on tape.
About a dozen people were sent to jail New Year's Eve, all for drinking and driving.
It's a crime that sent more than 1200 to jail across Georgia in 2006 and killed about 17,000 across the country.
Deputies say that death count is up from past years.
Our area is in the top 20 for the state of Georgia. That's why Richmond County had special DUI patrols out in full force.
We rode along with Sgt. Pete Lamb.
Sgt. Lamb spotted a truck weaving back and forth--a tell-tale sign the driver has been drinking. He hit the blue lights and put her to the test. She denied drinking, but couldn't seem to walk the line or keep her balance.
If she has a hard time with those things, imagine her behind the wheel.
"If you're not able to think about what you're doing and physically do it at the same time, controlling a two-ton vehicle down the roadway with two other people, other vehicles involved, that's a problem," Sgt. Lamb said.
It's a problem on a lot of levels. The more you drink, the more risks you take, the slower your reaction time becomes, and the worse your judgment becomes.
That's why extra patrols keep a close watch, including H.E.A.T. cars: a traffic enforcement program from the Governor's Office of Highway Safety dedicated to catching DUI violators.
"We have no tolerance for it. If we catch you driving under the influence, you go straight to jail," Sgt. Lamb said.
Catching drunk drivers means pulling over anyone who gives them any reason to suspect. Like one driver we saw who just forgot to turn on the headlights. But one truck was a different story-- it crossed the yellow line several times.
"It's completely avoidable. Completely avoidable," Sgt. Lamb said. "It's simple a choice people make."
It's a choice that kills tens of thousands every year.
Last night's drivers could be charged with driving under the influence and failure to maintain their lane. Deputies estimate 9000 were drinking in Richmond County last night. That's why the extra patrols are so important.
Richmond County's H.E.A.T. program is about a year old now. Their focus is DUI, speeding, and anything else that puts you in danger on the road.