Law out in full force this holiday

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 28, 2003

Officials have predicted this Thanksgiving holiday weekend will yield more drivers on roads and highways than in the past couple of years since the 9/11 attacks. Drivers headed through Covington County are urged by local law enforcement officials to not only have their seat belts buckled for the Click-It Or Ticket campaign, but to also follow proper traffic and safety procedures.

The statewide campaign officially kicked-off Sunday for the week of Thanksgiving and will last until Dec. 1, according to ADECA representative Jack Chancey.

"Click-It Or Ticket is credited to saving possibly 21 lives in the southeast region of Alabama, which encompasses 12 counties from Escambia all the way up to Russell County," Chancey said at a news conference held in the Andalusia Municipal Court Room earlier this month.

A number of police departments in the area, including Andalusia, Opp, Gantt, River Falls, and Red Level, will be participating in the campaign. Some of the strategies for enforcement of the campaign includes, but is not limited to road blocks, line checks, and zone patrol.

The focus on the roads this season will also allow officers to crack down on other illegal activity, said Opp Police Assistant Chief Mike McDonald.

"We'll be checking seat-belts, child restraints, DUI, and speeding," McDonald said.

The increase in patrol is necessary, according to McDonald.

"The rate of citations greatly increases during Click-It Or Ticket," he said. "We see more problems, and we try to address those as quickly as possible."

McDonald said his department will be patrolling major highways and roads.

"We will be doing a line patrol that involves patrolling specific roads for different officers," he continued. "We'll make sure people slow down and are properly restrained. This will, in turn, offer better protection for drivers on the roads."

A safety measure which will be enforced in the River Falls area may include a road block, according to River Falls Police Chief Jeff Holland.

"They (the blocks) last no more than a few minutes," Holland said. "People need to make sure they have a valid driver's license, an insurance card, proper tags, and a seat belt on."

Holland added drivers may be subject to go through more than one road block on their trip to wherever they are going.

"It's a statewide campaign, so a driver may go through several," he said.

According to Holland, the majority of drivers participating in road blocks follow the law.

"During our first road block (for the campaign) we wrote one citation, on our second one _ the 24th we wrote four to five citations for those not wearing seat belts and one arrest for a man with outstanding warrants in Houston County," said Holland. "Out of 960 cars that were stopped, only 4 percent of what came through had violations."

Holland added the road blocks are set up for 4-hour patrol periods.

The neighboring community of Red Level will also have saturation patrol, according to Red Level Police Chief David Anderson.

"We'll have check points set up for Saturday," he said.

Other departments working in conjunction with Andalusia Police Department, including Gantt Police Department, have also arranged for road blocks to be set up during this holiday.

"I'm concerned with the 17 people (in the state) who died last year, and hopefully we won't have the estimated 16 people to die this year during the busy travel period." McDonald said. "We'll work hard not to allow that to happen."