Blue lights flashing in the rear-view mirror have become a more common sight for drivers in Columbia County during the last two years.
Deputies wrote 2,331 speeding tickets in 1996, nearly five times the 480 tickets issued in 1994, said Major Mike Tomberlin with the Columbia County Sheriff's Office. By comparison, traffic accidents with injuries dropped from 516 to 357 in 1996, a decrease that Maj. Tomberlin attributes to the formation of a six-officer traffic unit and more aggressive ticketing.
"We started a more intense effort at traffic control in early 1995 and formed the stand-alone traffic unit in July 1996," Maj. Tomberlin said. "The No. 1 comment we receive - tenfold more than any other complaint from citizens - is complaints about speeding in the county."
Washington Road is still the site of most of Columbia County's accidents, because of heavy congestion and speeding, but slowing down drivers will at least reduce the injuries suffered in accidents, Maj. Tomberlin said.
Arrests for driving under the influence have also increased from 362 in 1994 to 522 last year.
"We can't totally stop accidents, but we have demonstrated that slowing traffic flow down saves lives and reduces injuries," he said.
"Prior to 1994, accidents were on the increase - which is not uncommon for a growing community - but now we're showing a trend in the positive direction."