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Sheriff's deputies: Higher speeds mean more accidents, patrols
Patrols determined by citations on roads
Hall County Sheriff’s Col. Jeff Strickland refers to a map the department uses to track enforcement data for 2009. The large orange dots, which are located along Ga. 365, indicate traffic fatalities. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

Col. Jeff Strickland said the Hall County Sheriff’s Office is not in the business of speed traps.

“The sheriff’s office keeps no records in regard to revenue generated by traffic citations,” Strickland said. “It has always been our goal to use traffic enforcement for the reduction of fatalities, serious injuries and the number of accidents.”

Georgia law defines a speed trap as fines from citations that make up more than 40 percent of an agency’s revenue.

In 2008, the Hall County Sheriff’s Office issued 13,097 traffic citations. Of those, 4,741 were for speeding and 637 were for driving under the influence.

But there is no way to tell what percentage of the Sheriff’s annual budget comes from speeding tickets. The Clerk of Court records fines collected from citations but does not differentiate them from ones written by the Georgia State Patrol or tickets for other offenses.

Strickland said the Sheriff’s Office carefully tracks accident and citation data to allocate patrols.

“Hall County is a very big area and we don’t want our officers just to go out unguided. We want to have a method ... We want our officers enforcing the law and providing high visibility in areas that are experiencing accidents and fatalities to make an impact,” Strickland said.

On a series of maps, the sheriff’s office places markers where fatalities took place and what type of citations were written where.

“That’s what we use to make our decisions where we assign our traffic enforcement officers for each day,” Strickland said.

Certain trouble areas emerge have emerged over the last few years.

Strickland said Browns Bridge Road,  Ga. 60 north, U.S. 129 and Ga. 365 north are all areas with increased patrols.

Increased citations in those areas will therefore correlate with a higher number of traffic deaths.

“(Ga. 365) has a higher speed limit; it’s a 65 mph zone as well as it is not limited access,” Strickland said. “This year alone we’ve had three deaths on 365. So that of course is a high priority area this year because of the deaths. And you can see our speed enforcement matches that as you see the number of citations that have been issued in that area.”

But speeding tickets are not the only citations sheriff’s deputies write.

“The contributing factors that play into fatalities often are speeding, DUI and failure to yield right of way,” Strickland said.

The Sheriff’s Office also receives complaints from residents about traffic violations on certain streets.

When they get a complaint, they will monitor traffic first with a device called a stealth stat monitor, which is installed on a telephone pole. That device will give a picture of the situation in the area and determine if additional patrols are needed there.

Strickland said the mapping system has been successful in decreasing fatalities over the last few years.

“Back in the early 2000s ... we were averaging 32 (fatalities). We’re now down in the lower 20s,” Strickland said. “And that’s always our goal with traffic enforcement is to reduce fatalities, seriousness of injuries in accidents as well as overall accidents.”

In 2008, there were five speed-related traffic fatalities out of 24.  

Strickland said in 2008, patrols were increased on I-985 due to the construction near Oakwood at exits 16 and 17.

Of the 283 speeding tickets issued on I-985, 121 of those were result of accelerated enforcements in those areas.

“I think sometimes traffic enforcement is misunderstood. Nobody wants to get a ticket,” Strickland said. “But the benefits of our officers enforcing the laws and having a visibility in the community pays great dividends in reduction of fatalities.”