More than 500 traffic officers from southwest Georgia counties converge on the Albany Civic Center Thursday for the third annual Southwest Georgia Quad Four Traffic Network banquet. The event is organized by the Governor’s Office of Safety. (Staff Photo: Jim West)
ALBANY — The parking lot of the Albany Civic Center filled on Thursday evening, with most of the vehicles belonging to law enforcement agencies across Southwest Georgia. More than 500 officers — police, sheriff’s deputies and state highway patrol — converged for the third annual Southwest Georgia Quad Network banquet.
Harris Blackwood, director of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, which organizes the event, said the purpose of the banquet is to honor the officers for the work they do keeping the state’s highways safe, keeping drunk drivers off the road and being away from their families.
“This is a night we come together to say thank you for all of that,” Blackwood said, “Plus, we’re celebrating some really great news.”
Blackwood said it was recently announced that Georgia highway fatalities have declined for the eighth year in a row.
“These guys have a lot to do with that,” Blackwood said. “It’s their high visibility and enforcement that has brought down the number of deaths.”
According to Blackwood, traffic fatalities have decreased from 1,745 in 2005 to 1,183 in 2013 — a reduction of more than 32 percent in eight years.
“In the last few years our decline has not been as great, but the needle is still moving in the right direction and that’s the important thing, Blackwood said.
One of the ways Blackwood said the “quad” is able to effectively lower fatalities is through cooperation between Georgia communities, regardless of their size.
“Some of these communities may have only two, three or four officers serving them,” Blackwood said. “If a community is having a traffic issue, we’ll come with officers from other jurisdictions to help them. We do that because we don’t believe this is an issue that starts or stops at the city limits or the county line. It’s statewide, and we want to be sure that every community is well served.”
Blackwood said the Southwest Georgia Quad is composed of four separate networks of roughly 10 counties each, and funded by grants from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The funds are administered on a statewide basis by the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, Blackwood said.