Hands Across the Border Campaign cracking down on impaired driving

Hands across the border cracks down on DUIs across Southeast

Columbus, GA (WTVM) - Melinda Garner was the only one who saw her sister Melissa run over by a drunk driver during a holiday weekend.

The crash left Melissa quadriplegic for the rest of her life until she died in 2013. 

"It just really tore our lives apart," said Garner, who is a volunteer with the city's Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). "You don't really understand how far reaching that ripple is until it happens to you."

The tragedy she endured because of impaired driving is something law enforcement hopes to prevent this upcoming Labor Day Weekend.

That's the mission behind Hands Across the Border, a campaign hoping to lower the number of traffic deaths across the Southeast. 

"We've done the same thing for the past 25 years," said Brian Mixon, a liaison with the Georgia Governor's Office of Highway Safety. "We actually have it and the end of the summer to cap up the efforts over the summer, but also to remind people, as they go into Labor Day, to be extra careful on the roadways."

According to the Georgia Governor's Office of Highway Safety,  Labor Day Weekend 2015 saw almost 4,000 collisions. 

In those collisions, 23 people died as a result of impaired driving from texting, calling, or having taken drugs or alcohol before getting behind the wheel. 

The total number of deaths on Georgia roads last year, according to the Office of Highway Safety, is more than 1,400.

"74 percent of those were because of three things," Mixon said. "Three driver behaviors: speed, distracted driving, and impaired driving were still the top three."

Mixon said he believes the total number of road deaths in Georgia may increase in 2016. 

"We're about three percent higher a year today than we were last year," Mixon said, "so we're afraid that we're going to be on the same track to even be higher than it was in 2015."

The mission now for law enforcement in Georgia, Alabama, and neighboring states is to set up checkpoints across the Southeast, as well as keep a lookout for erratic behavior that could signal impaired driving.

For Garner, the possibility of preventing any more deaths over a holiday weekend is something everyone should consider.  

"Whether they're texting and driving, whether they're distracted, whether they're drinking," she said, "you never know what other people are thinking."

Law enforcement also wants to remind those preparing to enjoy the Labor Day weekend they have options to get home safely if they feel impaired in any way.

Options include calling for a taxi, or if a person has AAA membership, they can use the "Tow to Go" service for free.

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