The Hall County Sheriff's Office would like to address an issue brought up in Sunday's article, "Traffic citations down in Hall County." Obviously, the article was written from revenue standpoint, but we would like the opportunity to expand on the more important issue it illuminates.
As the county's primary law enforcement agency, we want to emphasize that traffic enforcement is conducted not to raise revenue but to reduce the likelihood of serious crashes by influencing driver behavior. Odds are, most readers of this article have had or will have their lives affected as the direct result of a traffic crash involving themselves, a loved one or a close friend.
The larger goal of traffic enforcement is not to catch violators but rather to deter or prevent them from violating traffic laws in the first place. The end result should be fewer speeders, fewer impaired drivers and safer roads.
To this end, the Sheriff's Office tracks specific trends in an effort to determine which roadways experience the highest concentration of crashes, especially those involving serious injuries and fatalities. Our traffic enforcement units then concentrate on those areas.
From this operational model, we can derive the greatest public safety benefit from the resources we have. Those resources could easily be positioned in such a way that would net more citations, but the goal is and always should be safety, not ticket numbers.
Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, Hall County experienced fatality rates that hovered around 30 per year. Over the last decade, Hall County's crash fatality rates have dropped as low as 15 in 2006 and 18 in 2007 (these numbers reflect crashes occurring on public roadways in unincorporated Hall County only). This is in spite of a growing population and higher volumes of traffic.
We believe that these numbers are impacted by a variety of factors, including safer vehicles, increased usage of seat belts and child restraints, improved roadway engineering, enhanced EMS and trauma care and, of course, law enforcement traffic safety efforts.
We believe that efforts placing a strong emphasis on awareness and education, in addition to selective enforcement, are key components to our overall traffic safety goals. These efforts have been recognized both statewide and nationally, with the Hall County Sheriff's office named as the top or second-ranked agency in the state (among agencies of comparable size) seven times since 2003 by the Governor's Office of Highway Safety. Additionally, our traffic safety program was recognized as best in the nation in 2007 and again in 2009 by the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
In the final analysis, we believe one traffic fatality is too many, so we remain committed to doing everything within our abilities and resources to make our streets as safe as possible. If a collateral effect is the generation of revenue, that is merely an ancillary benefit for the county. It will never be why we do it.
We appreciate the opportunity to further discuss our philosophy on this important issue. If anyone would like to view the traffic crash and enforcement maps, feel free to contact our traffic enforcement unit at 770-531-6900.
Sgt. Stephen Wilbanks
Public Information Officer, Hall County Sheriff's Department