"Hands Across the Border" impaired driving education and enforcement campaign begins Monday
Georgia and neighboring states stepping up DUI enforcement prior to Labor Day Holiday weekend
(ATLANTA) – Rabun County detention officer Courtney Zajdowicz was studying to become an EMT and was also considering a career in law enforcement.
Her dreams and life ended when a drunk driver hit her pick-up truck head-on last August while Courtney was driving to work at the Rabun County Detention Center.
One year after her tragic death, the Rabun County Sheriff's Office, Governor's Office of Highway Safety and Northeast Traffic Enforcement Network will honor Zajdowicz in Dillard during the 31st annual 'Hands Across the Border' impaired driving enforcement and education campaign.
'Hands Across the Border' is a week-long enforcement campaign, with state and local law enforcement officers in Georgia joining their counterparts in four neighboring states to conduct sobriety road checks before the Labor Day holiday weekend.
"Courtney was looking forward to serving her community as an EMT and she also talked to me about the possibility of her one day going to school to become a sheriff's deputy," Rabun County Sheriff Chad Nichols said. "Because of one person's selfish decision to drink and drive, Courtney's parents have lost a daughter and our community has lost a friend who was always willing to help anyone in our community."
"There is nothing more difficult for a law enforcement officer to do than to have to tell a family that a loved one is never coming home again because of a drunk driving crash," Allen Poole, Director of the Governor's Office of Highway Safety, said. "State troopers, sheriff's deputies, and police officers in Georgia and across the southeast remain committed to keeping drunk and drugged drivers off of our roads in order to protect everyone using our roads."
Courtney Zajdowicz is one of too many in Georgia who each year have their lives taken from them by someone who makes the inexcusable decision to drive under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.
That is why state troopers and local law enforcement officers in Georgia, Alabama, Florida, North Carolina and South Carolina work every day to take drunk and drugged drivers to jail, because every arrest they make is potentially one drunk driving crash they have prevented and at least one life they have saved.
According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 30 percent of the people who died in traffic crashes in Georgia during the Labor Day holiday weekend from 2016 to 2020 involved a driver whose Blood-Alcohol Concentration (BAC) level was over the .08 legal limit in Georgia and 63% of fatal drunk driving crashes in Georgia during the Labor Day holiday weekend involved a driver whose BAC was twice the legal limit.
The number of overall alcohol-impaired driving fatalities in Georgia increased by 13% from 2020 compared to 2019, as approximately one out of every four traffic deaths in the state each year involve a drunk driver.
"Many Georgians are looking forward to traveling to the beach, lake, mountains or a football game during the Labor Day holiday weekend and we remind everyone to plan for a ride with a sober driver if alcohol is part of the holiday plans," Poole said. "Georgia is a zero-tolerance state for drunk and drugged driving, so do not ask for a warning if you are caught over the limit because this is the only warning we give."
'Hands Across the Border' began at the Georgia Interstate 95 Welcome Center in St. Mary's in 1991 when troopers from Georgia and Florida gathered for a ceremonial handshake to begin a friendly competition to see which agency would reduce the number of drunk driving deaths during the Labor Day holiday weekend through enhanced enforcement in the Southeast Georgia and Northeast Florida areas.
Within a few years, 'Hands Across the Border' had grown into a week-long education and enforcement campaign with Georgia and its neighboring states.
Georgia law enforcement officers will split into two groups to partner with officers to conduct sobriety road checks around the state, while officers in Alabama, Florida, North Carolina, and South Carolina will do the same in their respective states.
'Hands Across the Border' will begin with stops on Monday, August 29 in Bremen and Columbus followed by Dillard and Valdosta on Tuesday, Augusta and St. Mary's on Wednesday, and Savannah on Thursday.
The Governor's Office of Highway Safety and NHTSA offer the following highway safety tips for those traveling during the Labor Day holiday weekend:
- ·Allow extra time for your trip with more vehicles on the road
- ·Always wear a seat belt and make sure all passengers are properly restrained
- ·Designate a passenger to use the phone for navigation and program your destination into your device before getting on the road
- ·Plan ahead for a sober ride when alcohol is going to be part of the plans
- ·Let family and friends know they can contact you for a sober ride
AAA-The Auto Club will be offering free tows and a ride only for the driver of a vehicle for up to ten miles from 6:00 p.m. on Friday, September 2 through 6:00 a.m. on Tuesday September 5. AAA-The Auto Club reminds everyone their Tow-to-Go service does not make appointments and is designed as a safety net for those drivers who did not plan ahead for a sober ride.