New traffic officers' work sees big results

AIKEN --- A black Dodge Charger, driven by Aiken Public Safety's Cpl. Chris Carter, pulled into the parking lot of a bank on Richland Avenue, pursuing a red Ford Mustang.

When the car pulled up alongside him, the officer noticed that the driver wasn't wearing his seat belt. The simple traffic stop led to four traffic citations, one for a child restraint violation.

"Seat belt violations usually lead to other things," he said, pointing to the car where a 4-year-old child was in the back seat unrestrained, sitting next to a box that contained a child seat.

Cpl. Carter is one of two public safety traffic enforcement officers. They have been patrolling Aiken's roads since Jan. 19, thanks to a state grant.

And the two have made their presence known, issuing 1,197 traffic citations and 448 warnings.

"They've been on the road for over three months, and they've generated some impressive statistics," said Sgt. Jake Mahoney, the traffic officers' supervisor, adding that the number of collisions at some intersections has been cut in half.

Whiskey Road at Pine Log Road, an intersection that historically has had the highest number of traffic collisions in the city, has seen a significant reduction in accidents.

In February 2007, 11 collisions there resulted in $22,600 in property damage. In February of this year, the number of collisions was down to three and property damage was reduced to $6,400.

Though not every intersection has seen a reduction in collisions, there has been a difference in the type of collision -- more fender benders with no injuries versus severe accidents with injuries or fatalities, resulting in less money lost in property damage.

For example, at Richland Avenue and Hitchcock Parkway in February 2007, two collisions with injuries resulted in $11,800 in property damage.

In February of this year, there was an increase in accidents at that intersection, but no one was injured in the four collisions and property damage totaled $3,850.

"There's not only been a reduction in collisions but a reduction in the dollar amount on the loss of property," Sgt. Mahoney said.

The traffic officers focus on speeding, seat belt violations, and aggressive drivers and educate the public about traffic safety awareness.

They take their jobs seriously.

"These guys have seen the effects of the alcohol-impaired driver. They've had to deal with the grieving families," Sgt. Mahoney said.

Reach Michelle Guffey at (803) 648-1395, ext. 110, or michelle.guffey@augustachronicle.com.