JACKSON COUNTY, Fl. (WTVY) Multiple Alabama and Florida law enforcement agencies met at the border between the two states as the kickoff to the 2017 "Hands Across the Border, 100 Days of Summer H.E.A.T." campaign got underway. It’s a campaign that started over 2 decades ago by a trooper in Georgia, a trooper in Alabama and a trooper in Florida. They came together to help combat impaired driving. This year however, the campaign date was moved to earlier in the year, due to the number of fatal crashes in 2016.
"In 2016, in the state of Alabama that was one of our most deadly years", said ALEA Trooper Kevin Cook.
Cook was joined by his fellow law enforcement officers as they took a picture at the Alabama Welcome Center and then continued with a caravan, of the various law enforcement officers over the state border to the Florida Welcome Center. It was here that members of the various law enforcement agencies spoke on how systemic, drinking and impaired driving has become recently.
"More than 40,000 people died in automobile crashes on our nation’s highways last year", said Cook, which is data from the National Safety Council.
"In 2016 during what is considered 100 days of summer 788 people lost their lives in automobile accidents across Florida", said Lt. Kevin Arnold, of the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office.
The summer months mean more cars on the road and with that a higher rate of those deadly crashes. Alabama was up 144 deaths from 2015. In 2016, there were almost a thousand alcohol-related deaths in Florida. With staggering numbers it’s become more important that law enforcement work together. That’s no different for the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office.
"We're a small agency so to have more law enforcement officers out helping kind of helps us all reach that goal of keeping people safe", said Arnold.
Arnold said they’re a small agency who has to cover a significant area. Not just size wise, but they also cover a main corridor between Alabama and Georgia, to Panama City Beach. It’s crucial they cover Interstate 10 and U.S. Highway 231 and keep drivers safe on those roadways.
The campaign will continue Wednesday with events in Georgia.