Law out in force over holiday

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 23, 2003

With the traffic level in Covington County and all over the state expected to be high for the Memorial Day weekend,

law enforcement agencies are heightening their efforts to ensure traffic safety and compliance by those on the roads and highways.

The Department of Public Safety

estimates that 16 people may die as the result of traffic crashes in Alabama during the 78-hour Memorial Day holiday travel period which began Friday at 6 p.m. and concludes Monday.

Alabama State Troopers will exercise a "zero tolerance" policy, ticketing all who violate the state's safety restraint laws and will also aggressively enforce the speed limit, DUI and other traffic laws.

Meanwhile, local officers from all over the state will be conducting their holiday safety initiatives, including the "Click It or Ticket" campaigns that emphasize safety belt and child restraint enforcement.

The "Click it or Ticket" campaign is designed to increase seat belt usage in the state from 79 to 85 percent, with those driving without their seat belt facing a fine up to $25 and those who do not have their children properly restrained may face a fine of up to $10.

The campaign is a partnership between Gov. Bob Riley, Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA), Alabama Department of Public Safety, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Regional Community Traffic Safety Programs and municipal and county law enforcement agencies.

Locally, "Click it or Ticket" campaigns were slated for at least 19 locations between the period between May 23-30.

Andalusia Police Chief Wilbur Williams

Jr., whose department recently concluded a successful "Click it or Ticket" campaign with several contacts and citations issued, said another such campaign was planned for Friday night and this his department is basically prepared for what promises to be a busy weekend.

"Other than the 'Click it or Ticket' campaign, we don't really have anything out of the ordinary planned (for the holiday weekend)," said Williams. "We will be watching the traffic because we know it will be congested with people going to and coming back from the beach and things such as that."

He said typically during this time of year, his department is forced to deal with issues such as abuse of alcohol, although speeding is not generally a concern due to the increased congestion on the roads.

Williams noted that his department has been able to avoid dealing with accidents that have resulted in deaths or serious injuries, but added that there have been numerous accidents which resulted in major property damage or damage to vehicles.

Red Level Police Chief David Anderson also noted that his department had a "Click it or Ticket" campaign scheduled for Friday night with numerous other agencies, including Andalusia Rescue Squad, Alabama State Troopers, Covington County Sheriff's Department, River Falls Police Department, Gantt Police Department, Covington County Sheriff's Posse. the Covington County 22nd Judicial Drug Task Force and the Alabama ABC Board.

Anderson also said roving patrols will be held next week and a safety checkpoint will be conducted next Friday, May 30.

As far as possible "Click it or Ticket" campaigns for the Florala Police Department, Police Chief Lamar Mitchell said the campaigns are not feasible for his department at the current time due to a lack of officers.

There is little doubt that many Covington County residents will be heading to area lakes for the weekend, and Capt. Bob Huffaker of the Alabama Marine Patrol said his department will be aggressively patrolling the waters.

"With the staff that we have statewide, all of our officers will be on duty this weekend," said Huffaker. "We will be making sure that people are maintaining a proper lookout and our officers will be showing vigilance in patrolling against reckless operation of their water vehicles and alcohol."

Huffaker said those water vehicle operators have seemingly become more careful and aware, but noted that his agency still experiences occasional problems with operators and alcohol.

As far as major tips Huffaker has for those planning to head to area water sources, he said people should be on the lookout for floating debris and should wear their life preservers at all times.