Sheriff’s Lt. Ramone Lamkin, who supervises the road patrol, said the increase is a result of a renewed focus on safety.
“Tickets are a necessary evil,” said Lamkin, a former Georgia state trooper brought in by Sheriff Richard Roundtree. “We do try to use officer discretion. We say to warn them when you can.”
The crackdown follows a deadly year on Augusta highways. Richmond County recorded 42 traffic and pedestrian fatalities in 2012. The number alarmed local law enforcement and the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, which later sought to reduce fatalities through Operation Thunder.
Roundtree issued three goals to the traffic division: lower the number of deaths, crashes and injuries.
This year the county has seen 10 traffic fatalities.
“Every time we see a trend, we try to combat it,” Lamkin said.
Previously the traffic division had two officers focused on traffic enforcement, but under the new plan, the sheriff used existing personnel to increase that number.
Through May, deputies had issued 6,144 citations for speeding, almost 2,000 more than the same period in 2012.
“I wish we didn’t have to write (speeding) tickets,” Lamkin said.
The 41 percent increase is not a result of Operation Thunder, police said. Only 58 citations – less than 1 percent of the year’s total – came from that operation.
The Georgia State Patrol has issued 784 speeding citations in Richmond County this year, down from 985 in the period last year. Spokesman Gordy Wright said troopers across the state are spending more time assisting law enforcement with wrecks.
Lamkin said the sheriff’s office is looking at data to pinpoint where the primary problems are and what issues are causing crashes.
The most problematic areas are Bobby Jones Expressway, Deans Bridge Road and Mike Padgett Highway, he said.
Speeding, failure to yield, cellphone use, impairment and following too closely are most often contributing factors, but some issues are easier to crack down on.
Charges for texting while driving require a deputy to observe the behavior before a ticket can be issued. Though police occasionally receive tips about texters, they still have to locate the vehicle and observe the behavior.
Following too closely, which tops the list of crash factors, causes about 42 percent of crashes and accounted for 230 of the citations issued through May.
Lamkin said most drivers don’t realize that if they strike someone from behind, they face that charge.