When Sheriff Richard Roundtree took office, the county was coming off one of its worst years for traffic fatalities. The number increased from 19 in 2010 to 34 in 2011 and 42 in 2012.
The county had the second-highest rate of fatalities per capita in Georgia in 2012, said Lt. Ramone Lamkin, the new Traffic Safety Division commander.
“Before it just wasn’t effective,” Lamkin said of the traffic division structure. “There were just (deputies) out there randomly.”
Without adding manpower, the sheriff’s office has reorganized the division to put more deputies on the street to handle problems and put more officers in their beat neighborhoods.
Lamkin, who worked with the Georgia State Patrol for a decade, said he brought ideas he had seen working as a trooper.
Lamkin said there were too many reports of people “flying past” officers who they knew were too busy for a traffic stop.
Traffic enforcement will now be data driven, Lamkin said, placing more deputies in areas with the highest numbers of complaints and wrecks. Mike Padgett Highway, Bobby Jones Expressway and Interstate 20 top the list, he said. There will also be more officers on the streets on nights and weekends when concerns for traffic safety increase.
Pedestrian safety is another cause for concern.
In 2012, Richmond County saw the most pedestrian deaths in a decade, with 13. Lamkin said the answer to the problem is educating the public and enforcing existing laws.
“Not every encounter will deserve a ticket,” Lamkin said of pedestrians. “Sometimes we just need to talk to them and warn them.”
The sheriff’s office is discussing ways to begin educating the public on other issues. Lamkin said they are planning to go into communities to inform the public about car seat safety, into schools to talk to teens about issues such as texting, and onto Fort Gordon to talk to soldiers about driving impaired.
“You’ve got the enforcement side and the education side,” Lamkin said. “The first thing we want to do is lower the fatalities.”