The Georgia Governor's Office of Highway Safety (GOHS) has announced the second wave of the high-visibility Rolling Thunder task force begins Friday, October 17.
The GOHS Thunder taskforce is a specialized traffic enforcement unit designed combat abnormally high occurrences of traffic crashes, injuries and fatalities by altering the illegal driving behaviors of careless motorists through an increased law enforcement presence in Georgia’s high crash corridors.
Due in part to the high volume of Athens-to-Atlanta commuter traffic, Barrow County has a fatality rate higher than that of other similarly sized counties and a higher than average proportion of speed-related crashes. Barrow County recorded 17 fatalities in the first eight months of 2008. Oconee County also has a higher than average proportion of speed-related crashes and its recent three year fatality rate numbers were also higher than the overall state fatality rate.
The goal of the taskforce operation will be to reduce traffic fatalities and injuries over the coming three-month period. Last year, the taskforce successfully reduced traffic fatalities in the Savannah Area by 58 percent while working with Savannah-Chatham Metro Police.
Over the summer, the taskforce produced a 23 percent decrease in crashes and a 37 percent reduction in injuries in Bartow and Paulding Counties. Before Operation Thunder, Paulding County was ranked number seven in the state for traffic fatalities and Bartow County was ranked number nine. After 121 roadchecks, Bartow and Paulding experienced a remarkable 87 percent decrease in highway fatalities. For the first time in three years, the Georgia State Patrol worked no highway deaths there in the months of June and July, and fatalities were held down to two during August.
The Thunder taskforce is composed of officers from Troop B of the Georgia State Patrol and the Georgia Motor Carrier Compliance Division along with a specially-qualified contingent of GOHS H.E.A.T. Units. (H.E.A.T. stands for Highway Enforcement of Aggressive Traffic.)
During the Barrow-Oconee call-out, "Thunder" will run a combined speed and DUI crackdown operation with the Barrow and Oconee County Sheriff’s Offices and other local law enforcement agencies. H.E.A.T. Units will come from Barrow, Carroll, Douglas, Walton and White County Sheriff’s Offices working with Police Department H.E.A.T. Units from the cities of Dublin, Morrow and Winder. Troop B Georgia State Troopers will be dispatched from Patrol Posts in Athens, Blue Ridge, Cumming, Gainesville, and Toccoa.
In between weekly waves of Thunder operations, Barrow and Oconee County Sheriff’s patrols will continue to target high injury and fatality crash locations with an ongoing schedule of concentrated patrols and roadchecks.
During last month’s “Rolling Thunder” operation, the taskforce arrested 103 drivers on DUI charges.
“That’s 103 potential fatal DUI crashes interdicted before they could occur,” said Governor's Office of Highway Safety Director Bob Dallas. “And that means 103 Barrow and Oconee County families that didn’t get that terrifying knock at the door in the middle of the night with news of a highway tragedy.”
This month’s taskforce operation is dedicated to the memory of Oconee County Deputy Davud Gilstrap who died after being struck by a vehicle while directing traffic in a school zone last weekend.
Taskforce operations will continue in Barrow and Oconee counties through December.