News 12 at 11/ Wednesday, April 2, 2014
AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- Three new patrol cars will be burning some rubber in Richmond County thanks to the H.E.A.T grant from the Governor's Office of Highway Safety.
H.E.A.T stands for Highway Enforcement of Aggressive Traffic, and that's exactly what the cars are for.
Tens of thousands more drivers head into Augusta next week, and these cars will be watching.
Better watch your speed and your road rage. They just started hitting the road this week. Now, Augusta drivers could get more than blue lights in their mirror. They could get a whole blue car.
The HEAT patrol cars are the newest additions to the Richmond County Sheriff's Office, and they've got one job.
"Combat against aggressive driving and impaired driving," said Sgt. Danny Whitehead.
Those are two of the biggest factors that lead to fatalities on the road and part of the reason Richmond County got the grant.
"In 2012, our fatalities went up to 44 for that year. We created the traffic division at the end of 2012, beginning of 2013, and that number was 26 last year," explained Whitehead.
Right now we're holding at three, compared to seven fatal accidents by this time last year.
With these cars on the road, they're hoping those numbers continue to drop.
"We've decreased that number by half, by 50 percent, and we're looking to continue that," Sgt. Whitehead said.
There are three of the sleek blue Dodge Chargers, and they normally come with a pretty price tag, but thanks to a $625,000 grant, these state of the art traffic machines are free.
"Usually we'd have to pull that out of our budget but thanks to the grant from the GOHS, obviously they're picking up the bill and they're paying for this," Sgt. Whitehead said.
For the next week as thousands more cars flood our streets for Masters week, they're priceless.
"We'll have more man power here, and it's only 3 guys and we understand that, but at the same time, it frees up some of the other guys for traffic control, some of the other duties that come along with masters week," Sgt. Whitehead explained.
Sgt. Whitehead says Augusta hasn't had any alcohol-related fatal accidents during Masters week in years, and they're planning on keeping it that way.
The grant lasts for three years. The department gets $250,000 the first year. Besides the cars, that money also pays for two of the deputies' salaries who will be driving those cars.