Law enforcement officers from Georgia and Alabama teamed up Monday night to staff DUI checkpoints at three bridges crossing the Chattahoochee River between Columbus and Phenix City.
Officers from both state patrols along with police and sheriff’s deputies formed a task force for the 24th annual “Hands Across the Border” operation to arrest impaired drivers and check for auto insurance and proper seatbelt and child-safety seat use.
The checkpoints Monday night were set up at the Oglethorpe Bridge, the Dillingham Street Bridge and the 13th Street Bridge. Checkpoints through Friday will be established at other state borders, including Tennessee, South Carolina and Florida.
During a gathering Monday evening at the Columbus Regional Conference Center at the Midtown Medical Center, 134 officers ate Country’s Barbecue as representatives of the Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety outlined the operation that began in southeast Georgia nearly a quarter of a century ago.
Roger Hayes, law enforcement services director for the office of highway safety, said one reason the two states continue the “Hands Across the Border” event is that traffic fatalities still are increasing, up 12 percent this year.
Besides state troopers and Columbus and Phenix City police, other agencies participating Monday included Columbus State University police; Auburn, Ala., police; Butler, Ga., police; Middle Georgia State University police; and deputies from the Muscogee, Henry, Daugherty, and Harris County, Ga., sheriffs’ offices.
Drivers stopped at checkpoints are expected to show their driver's licenses and proof of insurance.
The operation this year was named in honor of 8-year-old Loucresha Fluellen, a twin daughter of Cathy Fluellen, who works at Columbus Carver High School.
The mother said Loucresha was killed Nov. 10, 1984, while crossing the street for an armed forces event at Fort Bragg, N.C., where an intoxicated second lieutenant ran her over. The child lingered brain dead on life support afterward.
For a while the trauma affected how the mother dealt with the surviving twin sister, whose face reminded her of the daughter she lost: “I couldn’t stand to look at her. I couldn’t stand to talk to her,” Fluellen said, later adding: “It was just the worst, worst thing in my life.”