Operation Thunder kicked off Thursday night in Augusta. (WRDW-TV)
News 12 at 6 o'clock / Friday, Feb. 15, 2013
AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- The announcement of the kickoff for Operation Thunder Thursday afternoon has given way to increased patrols along the roads of Richmond County.
But for Mike Padgett Highway, the patrol is more than needed to combat the higher-than-normal number of traffic fatalities over the past few months.
"We hope that with them coming here with this and being part of this program, that we are able to get the public to open their eyes a little bit and pay attention to what they are doing, whether it be speeding, texting, seat belt," said Cpl. Michael Fletcher of the Richmond County Traffic Division.
Fletcher works roads like Mike Padgett and says more patrolling will be the only way that will bring change.
"There is going to be that increased presence, a lot more officers on the road, therefore we will be out there a lot more to see these violations that occur," Fletcher said.
Local businesses along the highway are still concerned, though.
"We've pretty much told all of our drivers even though the light is green, don't assume it's OK to pull in and pull out," said Adam Willis, the vice president of F&W Transportation.
His business sits at the intersection of Mike Padgett Highway and Doug Bernard Parkway, where he gets a front row seat at some of the most fatal traffic accidents.
"We've got security cameras focused on this intersection and we have seen accidents occur lately," Willis said. "We're still seeing every day, people running red lights, and you can see on the road, skid marks from people sliding all the way to the light."
But he says he feels traffic fatalities are caused by drivers just not paying attention.
"Whether they are on their cellphones, they are not used to the red light being there, and the problem is they are still speeding and not paying attention to what they are doing," Willis said.
For Fletcher, he says he feels the same and that he wants drivers just to follow the rules.
"We want everyone to drive safely, we want everybody to slow down and pay attention," Fletcher said.
However, Willis doesn't feel 90 days is enough to really change things.
"I would like to see is not just a 90-day blitz, I'd like to see some type of a continuing effort," he said. "Every time we have a fatality on this road, they send police out for one week, well one week isn't enough to establish a habit."
Those 90 days of Operation Thunder began Thursday evening with two random road checks, revealing close to a dozen DUI arrests and an overall total of 140 citations in the one night.
Sixty-nine citations were issued at the checkpoint on the 3400 block of Milledgeville Road:
Seventy-one citations were issued at the checkpoint on Old Savannah Road at Molly Pond Road:
In addition to the traffic citations, four narcotics arrests were made and two arrest warrants were served.
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