LaFAYETTE, Ga. — In the movies, the Batmobile is a souped up, crime-fighting sports car the fictional character Batman uses to conquer evil villains.
In Georgia, a real-life Batmobile also is conquering crime. The converted recreational vehicle isn’t capable of reaching high speeds, but the compact police station on wheels is so fast that it’s like arresting a drunken person staggering in front of the jail.
The mobile command unit from Clayton County made an appearance in Northwest Georgia during a two-day sobriety checkpoint Saturday and Sunday. Authorities made 12 DUI arrests, 14 misdemeanor drug arrests and issued 200 warnings.
“The Batmobile proved to be indispensable,” said Sgt. Don Stultz with the State Patrol. “The actual number of DUIs for one day is twice to three times more than what we would arrest in a normal’s day work.”
The “Bat” in the word Batmobile is an acronym for Blood Alcohol Testing. The mobile is a state-of-the-art unit deployed for on-site testing and detention at checkpoints. It is equipped with a Breathalyzer, an instrument which measures the concentration of alcohol in the body, a holding facility, privacy area for booking, a radio and telephone.
Cameras are mounted on the roof to videotape every move. The unit is one of three Batmobiles that will roam Georgia’s 159 counties searching for drunken drivers.
It is all part of Gov. Roy Barnes’ campaign that began July 1 to reduce traffic fatalities and use education to heighten the public’s awareness about drunken driving.
The vehicles are owned by the Governor’s Office of Safety in Atlanta. Last year, nearly 1,600 people died on Georgia’s roadways. The program is funded through a $1 million federal grant obtained by Georgia and Tennessee authorities.
Sgt. Stultz said motorists can expect sobriety checkpoints at least once a month somewhere in Georgia.
LaFayette Post Commander Carlton Stallings said that half of all accidents involving teen-agers are alcohol-related, and one in three fatalities involve alcohol. He said the economic impact is $45 billion a year due to crash-related costs including property damage, civil lawsuits and insurance claims.