Written by MADD SC Victim Services Specialist Kelly Stafford

On June 9th, the 14th Circuit Law Enforcement Network participated in the Hands Across The Border event with Georgia. This is an annual event that is conducted with state and local law enforcement officers at the Georgia border to enforce traffic safety laws, including DUI. Georgia held public safety checkpoints at the border all around the state while their counterparts held checkpoints on their side of the border the week of the 9th. This checkpoint in Savannah, located at the state line in Jasper County, was the last for the annual event.

The event began at the Savannah Georgia Civic Center where more than 200 people, mostly law enforcement, gathered for the occasion. They served a generous dinner and then several people from the Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety spoke. Captain Russell Wilson, Law Enforcement Liaison from the SC Department of Public Safety also said a few words. He was honored by his Georgia counterparts as this was his last checkpoint before retiring June 30th.

MADD Georgia also attended. Theresa DeWild, Program Director for the Savannah/Augusta area, represented MADD Georgia by saying a few words regarding Georgia DUI statistics. She and I both thanked officers for being there and taking part in this event. She also made sure that the Georgia guys and gals were stocked up on MADD swag and information, including our request that they let crash victims know of MADD’s free services and how to reach us.

The checkpoint was held at the Talmadge Bridge on Highway 17 on the border with South Carolina. On the Georgia side, many agencies joined forces. Right away, several cars were pulled over for further inspection. One car had open containers and underage passengers, and another car was inspected by the K-9 team for possibly having drugs in the car. I was able to meet an officer who had been recently victimized when a repeat offender hit his family. Luckily, everyone survived with minor injuries. He was happy MADD was at the checkpoint.

Eventually I crossed the bridge to the SC side of the checkpoint. SC officers also detained a car for suspicion of drugs and another for failure to utilize a child safety seat. Brent Kelly from the SC Department of Public Safety even found an alligator near the bridge. Lucky for the gator, he had not been drinking.

The event was eye opening. I learned a great deal about checkpoints, the dangers officers face while operating them, and the importance of collaboration and partnerships that are important to the fight against drinking and driving. If you are a MADD volunteer and would like to participate in a DUI checkpoint, contact Kimberly, Kelly, or Steven at 803-748-7333.