The Cherokee Sheriff’s Department announced that it will be cracking down on impaired driving over the New Year’s holiday weekend. The department will focus on drunk driving and seatbelt violations at area checkpoints.

Drunk Driving Deaths
According to the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety in Georgia, 165 people died in alcohol-related crashes in 2014 and over 5,200 people were injured. In addition to checkpoints placed strategically in the area, police are also providing information on the “Drive Sober, Georgia” app that is available for both Android and Apple products. The app provides information on free and paid sober ride programs in the area. AAA, through a partnership with Bud Light, is offering their “Tow and Go” program in Georgia on New Year’s Eve as well. AAA will tow the vehicle of someone who has had too much to drink and will transport up to two people home in the wrecker. It is not possible to make an appointment with the Tow and Go program, so it is best to designate a driver before drinking should the service not be available. The program can be reached by calling 855-2-TOW-2-GO or 855-286-9246.

Seatbelt Use
Georgia law requires all front seat passengers to wear a seat belt when the vehicle is being operated on public roads, streets or highways. In addition, any child under the age of 17 must wear a seat belt regardless of whether they are in the front or back seat, while children under the age of four must be in an approved child-safety seat. According to statistics, 92 percent of Georgia residents wear seat belts, compared to 86 percent nationwide.

Impaired Driving Consequences
Seatbelt violations in Georgia bring minimal fines of between $15 to $50. However, an impaired driving violation can be very costly. A first offense DUI charge carries fines of at least $300 or as high as $1,000 a well as a possible one-year jail term. In addition, there is a one-year license suspension, 40 hours of community service are required. If someone is charged with a DUI within five years of a first offense, there is a minimum mandatory jail term of 48 hours, but may be as much as one year. There is a $600 minimum fine, although it could be as high as $1,000 and a three-year license suspension. A minimum of 30 days’ community service is required and a mandatory clinical evaluation for substance abuse treatment that is paid for by the offender. A third offense within five years of the second offense comes with a minimum mandatory 15-day jail term, a fine of at least $1,000, although a fine of $5,000 is possible and license revocation for five years. There is a minimum mandatory 30-day community service requirement and the violator’s name, photo and address are published in a local newspaper at their expense. Because they are deemed to be a habitual offender, the offender’s license plate is seized and returned to the Department of Motor Vehicle Safety and they face a mandatory clinical evaluation for substance abuse treatment. Any treatment is paid for by the offender. All license revocations come with a $210 reinstatement fee.

Waggoner Insurance wants everyone to have a safe and happy holiday season. When you go out to celebrate, be sure to designate a driver who does not drink alcohol for the entire evening to guarantee you arrive at your destination and back home again safely. We are ready to discuss all your insurance needs, including auto, life, health and home. Visit us online or give us a call today to learn how we can provide you and your family with the best protection possible.

Georgia Highway Safety
Marietta Daily Journal