After a 79 percent increase in traffic fatalities last year, the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office wants drivers to be more careful on the road.
The number of citations deputies have written so far this year shows they’re serious about making their presence felt.
Less than one-third of the way through the year, deputies are already close to reaching the total number of citations –
8,184 – written in 2011. Through April 1, deputies had written 7,869.
“People are in too much a rush,” sheriff’s Lt. Randy Prickett said. “Nobody wants to leave early.”
Traffic fatalities jumped from 19 in 2010 to 34 in 2011. There have been 12 fatalities this year, with seven in April alone.
All deputies can write traffic citations, Prickett said, but most are written by the county’s eight traffic deputies.
“Unfortunately, the regular deputies don’t have a lot of time,” he said.
One of those traffic deputies is Daniel Puckett, who stood on a side street off Gordon Highway on April 18 with his radar gun pointed at vehicles topping a hill near Dan Bowles Road. Almost immediately after zeroing in on a vehicle, he knew its speed.
“Sixty-four. Silver,” he said to the first of five deputies in a line of patrol cars.
The deputy headed out, blue lights flashing, after the speeding car. The next officer in line pulled forward to wait for the next offender.
Puckett said drivers often try to claim officers got the wrong car, but with the Kustom Pro Laser III he was using, it was almost impossible not to pin a car down to an exact speed.
Three of this year’s fatal crashes occurred on Gordon Highway, a long commuter road connecting multiple counties.
“It’s one of our main focuses because of all the traffic,” Prickett said.
The crackdown on Gordon Highway continued for two more days and ended with 102 citations, 22 warnings and one DUI charge.
Columbia County has 13 traffic cars focused on catching speeders, Capt. Steve Morris said. He said the county looks at statistical analyses and traffic times to determine when and where traffic cars should be deployed.
So far this year, officers have issued more than 600 speeding citations. The county has one reported traffic fatality so far this year.
Morris said Columbia and Washington roads and Interstate 20 are where they see most speeders.