Here’s why more police officers will be on the road this week looking for speeders

Drivers in Georgia and Alabama should be mindful of their speed this week as law enforcement agencies in five southeastern states are cracking down on dangerous driving.

The third annual Operation Southern Shield launched Monday, and is an effort by agencies in the two states plus Florida, South Carolina and Tennessee to enforce speed limits and promote safe driving through midnight July 21.

“The goal of Southern Shield is not to write a lot of tickets, but to show drivers how speeding drastically increases their chances of being in a crash,” said Allen Poole, director of the Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, speeding has been a factor in nearly one-third of all traffic deaths in the United States during the past two decades.

In 2017, speeding killed 9,717 people, approximately 26% of the year’s nationwide traffic fatalities, NHTSA data shows.

In 2018, 268 people were killed in speed-related crashes in Georgia, according to preliminary numbers from the Georgia Department of Transportation. That’s an 8% increase from the previous year.

In Alabama, approximately 346 people were killed in speed-related traffic crashes in 2018, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency’s Highway Patrol numbers show.

Poole said Tuesday that speeding increases the chances that drivers will lose control of their vehicle, makes it take longer to come to an abrupt stop and decreases the effectiveness of a vehicle’s safety equipment.

Belinda Jackson, regional program manager with the NHTSA, said there are several groups of drivers who are more likely to be involved in speed-related crashes: young males aged 15-24, people who don’t wear their seatbelts, motorcyclists and impaired drivers.

“During this week’s enforcement blitz, the blue lights will be out there in full force,” Jackson said. “Officers will be vigilant regarding enforcing speed limits but also seat belt, distracted driving and impaired driving violations as well. Our goal with the Southern Shield campaign is simply this: it’s to save lives.”

During the 2018 Southern Shield, law enforcement agencies in Georgia wrote more than 11,000 citations and agencies in Alabama wrote more than 14,000.

“Southern Shield has led to a drop in traffic deaths in the five states in the last two years,” Poole said. “Please slow down, buckle up, drive alert and drive safe.”

Allie Dean is the Columbus city government and accountability reporter for the Ledger-Enquirer, and also writes about new restaurants, developments and issues important to readers in the Chattahoochee Valley. She’s a graduate of the University of Georgia.