Operation Thunder Rolling Into Richmond County - WFXG FOX54 Augusta - Your News One Hour Earlier

Operation Thunder Rolling Into Richmond County

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The Governor's Office of Highway Safety (GOHS) is announcing life-saving news for the Augusta area: Operation Thunder is launching a 3-month, high-visibility campaign to help cops crack down on dangerous drivers throughout Richmond County. The Thunder taskforce is a specialized traffic enforcement unit designed to help Georgia cities and counties combat abnormally high occurrences of traffic crashes, injuries and fatalities on local, high-traffic corridors.

And indeed, Richmond County has experienced a sharp increase in fatalities just within the last two years. After seeing an initial decrease in fatalities from 2006-2010, Richmond County has now experienced a significant 2010. That year, the county experienced 19 fatalities, but that number rose to 35 in 2011 and even further to 44 in 2012. That represents an overall 131 percent increase in fatalities in just two years.

GOHS will hit the ground running with the Richmond County Sheriff's Office by kicking off Operation Thunder with a news conference on the Wheeler Road Bridge over I-20 at 1:30PM on Thursday, February 14th.

"The taskforce's goal in Augusta will be to intercept high-risk drivers before they turn their risky behavior into reality and cause even more crashes," said GOHS Director Harris Blackwood.

This Operation Thunder campaign is being launched in full cooperation with the Richmond County Sheriff's Office, led by Sheriff Richard Roundtree.

"Last year in Richmond County, 44 people died needlessly due to traffic related fatalities.  Our administration plans to do everything possible in order to save lives to include education, warnings and enforcement," said Sheriff Roundtree. "We are excited to be teaming up with HEAT and GSP units from across the state through the Governor's Office of Highway Safety, which allows for additional resources to combat this problem without additional local funding."

The Thunder mission is to detect Georgia's high-crash corridors and reduce mounting highway deaths and serious injuries by introducing a high visibility law enforcement presence to help stabilize the extreme and illegal driving behaviors of careless motorists who cause those crashes. The taskforce's goal in Richmond County will be to show a significant reduction in traffic fatalities and injuries during the three-month initiative.

Strategy includes assigning concentrated patrols to state routes, rural roads and interstate highways on alternating schedules throughout the campaign. Thunder officers will conduct safety belt and sobriety roadchecks as well as speed patrols while collecting enforcement data to document their life-saving progress.

"For motorists in and around Richmond County, they can be sure they'll see an increased law enforcement presence," said Director Blackwood. "But rest assured, this is not about quotas or revenue, it's about saving lives. We cannot stand by idle while the area's fatal crash rate has increased by such a large percentage."

Operation Thunder has a history of reducing highways deaths since the project's inception in 2007. Each time it's launched, the GOHS Thunder Taskforce deploys a combined safety belt, speed and DUI mobilization with local traffic enforcement units. For more information on the Thunder Taskforce, visit www.gahighwaysafety.org.

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