KINGSLAND | Georgia and Florida state patrol leaders exchanged ceremonial handshakes on both sides of the border Thursday morning for the annual Hands Across the Border promotion for highway safety.


But Georgia was standing on more than ceremony with some good numbers to celebrate.

For the first time in 60 years, Georgia is coming up on Labor Day with fewer than 700 highway fatalities, said Harris Blackwood, the director of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety.

“Compared to the same day last year, we are 123 people below …’’ and are hopeful that the good fortune will last through the end of the year, Blackwood said.

“We’ve been talking about below 1,000. We may make it this year,’’ he said.

During the week leading up to the three-day Labor Day weekend, local and state officers stage checkpoints on highways to check for safety and traffic violations. They found some this week, officials said, including some DUIs, which is the focus of a national campaign with the slogan “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over.”

At a check point in Valdosta Tuesday, officers issued about 50 citations including three DUIs and several for driving with a suspended license. One person who sped away from the checkpoint was caught and found to have 11 grams of cocaine, officers said.

At checkpoints Wednesday night in Camden County, officers found 11 seat belt violations, six driving with a child not secured in a safety seat, seven with no insurance, three DUIs, one speeding, two drug arrests, a fugitive and 12 others.

The officers also checked 20 child safety seats and gave a free replacement for a defective one.

“You gotta love this,’’ Blackwood said as he told officers of the arrest of a man on charges of impersonating an officer and carrying a concealed firearm.

“If you do that at a road check, you might be a redneck,’’ he said.

Blackwood said the goal of Hands Across the Border is to ensure that people who go on vacation for Labor Day get back home safely.

But he also urged all the officers to look out for children.

“People just aren’t buckling up their kids,’’ he said.

People in their 20s can violate the seat belt law if they want, but children 8 and younger have no choice, he said.

After the ceremonial handshake in the welcome center parking lot in Georgia, the officers headed south on I-95 with blue lights flashing to the Florida welcome center for a second ceremony there and lunch.

Blackwood said the people of Florida and Georgia deserve safe roads, and Sgt. Dylan Bryan of the Florida Highway Patrol said a road check was planned in Nassau County Thursday night.

The highway patrol, Nassau County Sheriff’s Office, Fernandina Beach Police Department and Florida Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco were to conduct the roadside check, he said.


Terry Dickson: (912) 264-0405