As soon as construction finished on Friendship Road, Hall County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Todd Casper said the traffic speeds and residents’ complaints skyrocketed.
“The citizen complaints have been through the roof down there,” Casper said.
The road has become the new focus for the Hall County Sheriff’s Office traffic unit for the past two months. Ending construction in the area meant the road went from a 35 mph zone to 45 mph.
“Because the speeds had gone up so much, we were having some pretty bad wrecks with injuries there,” Casper said.
On June 24, officers issued 126 citations in four hours. In one 45 mph zone, Casper said the ticketed speeds ranged from 79 to 113 mph.
“The last one we did two weeks ago, the highest speed was 74 miles per hour,” Casper said.
While the speeds have reduced, three officers in the area wrote a combined 46 citations in just two hours.
Previous problem spots for the Sheriff’s Office have been Athens and Candler highways and Poplar Springs Road.
“When we go to an area and work that area, usually the next 60 days they’ll go down. We’ll hit another area and they’ll slowly go back up,” Casper said of the number of crashes in an area.
On Hall County roads last year, 35 people were killed in crashes. Through August of this year, there have been 19 fatalities.
The peak of crashes this year came in March with 673 wrecks, with the numbers declining through the spring and summer months. Casper said there were only 547 crashes in August, bringing the yearly total to 4,687 incidents.
If the rate continues of roughly 500 crashes each month, the county will have almost 1,000 fewer crashes than the nearly 7,600 incidents last year.
The work in the Flowery Branch and Buford area has come through partnership with Georgia State Patrol and the state’s Motor Carrier Compliance division, Casper said.
Residents have reported to Casper and other officers about truck drivers speeding and driving on roads they shouldn’t use, including Martin Road.
“We’ve actually had citizen complaints where they call in and they take a picture of the truck, and we actually call the company,” Casper said.
The issue with Martin Road is a sharp curve near JM Turk Road that cannot accommodate a vehicle with more than 10 wheels.
“If a truck turns into Martin Road from either end, they don’t see the sign that says ‘no trucks’ until after they’ve turned on the road,” said Brad Farrow of the Martin Road Association.
Farrow said those along the road have asked for the signage to be on the traffic lights before drivers turn onto the road.
Deborah Simental, who lives along that curve on Martin Road, said the trucks traveling on the road put unneeded stress on the path.
“You can hear the wheels go off the edge of the road ... and so it wears down that shoulder,” she said.
Those on four wheels, Simental said, have been taking the curve too fast and have led to an innumerable amount of crashes.
Having lived there since 2003, she’s seen “cars flip completely upside down” and fly in different directions.
Casper said commercial trucking companies have been cooperative in trying to keep their drivers compliant.
Analysis from last year’s fatal crashes in Hall County found the average age of the person involved to be 54 years old. The Sheriff’s Office and the Gainesville Police Department will hold another CarFit educational event on Sept. 14.