Police effort aims to reduce pedestrian deaths

Wrightsboro and Wash­ing­ton roads are the focus of a new initiative to cut down on pedestrian-related injuries and deaths.

“You think you can get across that street sometimes, but you just don’t realize how fast the cars are coming,” Richmond County sheriff’s Lt. Lewis Blanchard said.

Last year, Richmond Coun­ty saw its most pedestrian fatalities in a decade. Four of the 15 deaths occurred in the two areas targeted in the new crackdown.

Police said two areas with the most problems are Wrightsboro Road near Jackson Road, and Wash­ington Road between Starbucks and TBonz.

The most troublesome is Wrightsboro Road, where many of the pedestrians are children. Lt. Ramone Lam­kin said deputies are seeing children as young as 11 crossing without adults.

For the first stage of the crackdown, which began Fri­day, deputies have been asked to stop all children crossing in those areas, escort them to their parents, make them aware of the problem and explain safe crossing methods.

If adults cross in unsafe areas, they could get a warning.

“We’re not looking to go to high enforcement,” Lamkin said. “It’s mainly going to be education and warnings.”

Adults, especially military on the weekends, are the main problem on Wash­ington Road.

Lamkin said the sheriff’s office plans to meet with military police and other officials at Fort Gordon to discuss the issue. Later, police plan to go into neighborhoods in areas near the road to hand out fliers on the danger of illegal crossing.

The sheriff’s office has met with traffic engineering to see whether there is something it can do to
increase safety in the two areas. Traf­fic engineer Steve Cas­sell said there are options on Wrights­boro Road, but they would take time and come from transportation sales tax funds.

Cassell said barriers could prevent crossing or lead pedestrians to use a crosswalk, but a median would provide a refuge as people crossed the busy highway.

“To fix the problem would be a pretty significant investment,” Cassell said.

In the meantime, traffic engineering might put
up warning signs in the area.

The Washington Road problem would not be as easily fixed. The area already has frequent crosswalks with upgraded crossing functions.

“That’s a little beyond me as to what we can do,” Cassell said.

Police urge people to take the extra minute to walk to the nearest crosswalk.

“There are so many distractions with drivers nowadays,” Blanchard said. “All it takes is one second and two lives are ruined.”

The sheriff’s office plans to move to areas including Gor­­don Highway, Peach Or­chard Road and Deans Bridge Road after they address the two problem areas.

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