ALBANY - Georgia is one of thirteen states working with the federal government to try to find out how many people are drinking and driving. As part of that initiative, the Governor's Office of Highway Safety is helping conduct roadblocks in forty Georgia cities. Their goal is to get a better idea of how various blood alcohol levels affect drivers.
Motorists were greeted one-by-one by Albany Police Officers: "How are you doing there ma'am? You have your driver's license?" They stopped cars along East Broad Avenue in Albany last night in what may have seemed to be an ordinary road block. But not only are police getting violators off the roadwaysbut the state is also conducting an important survey.
"Over the last two years we have seen an increase in fatalities from DUI crashes," Michelle DeMott with Albany Safe Communities said.
Volunteers with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are asking motorists to answer a short questionairre and submit to a breathalyzer test. "It's completely anonymous. We don't even get your information out here. It just goes strictly into a database," a surveyor told LaShawna Ashley who was on her way home when she decided to participate.
"I think it's helpful because a lot of people are driving around drinking and having a lot of car wrecks and killing other people," Ashley said.
Proving the importance of keeping the roads safe, less than an hour after the road block started, officers made their first DUI arrest. "Go ahead and take a deep breath. Blow, blow, blow, blow, blow," an officer said to the suspect.
After going through a field breathalyzer test, officers took the suspect into their mobile DUI bus for further testing. The suspect failed miserably. "So, what's going to happen is Officer Ponder is going to charge you for DUI at a .148. That means you are way over. You're almost twice the legal limit," he told the subject. He was arrested and put into a holding cell immediately.
This, officers say, is the exact reason the roadblock is necessary: keeping impaired drivers off the road.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration volunteers will conduct a roadside breathalyzer test tonight in Bainbridge. In the coming months, they will revisit all forty cities to compare data with current testing.