The Richmond County Sheriff's Office has seen a spike in pedestrian-involved accidents this year. (WRDW-TV)
News 12 at 6 o'clock / Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Richmond County deputies say they are slammed, working fatal case after fatal case. Now they're working on some changes to make the streets a little safer.
This year, 42 people have been killed on Augusta roads. Thirteen of those have been pedestrians, an uptick from the five pedestrian deaths in 2011.
"It's a lot. That's probably the most that I've ever been familiar with, and I'm almost 24 years here," explained Richmond County Sheriff's Lt. Randy Prickett.
And now two more fatalities in two days.
"We'd rather not have anything to do, but unfortunately, right now we're backed up. We've been hit pretty hard the last month and half," he said.
That includes one deadly pedestrian accident Tuesday night on Washington Road. Investigators say 47-year old Rapha Felts of North Carolina darted into traffic after leaving dinner with friends. They believe he may have been running to the bank to pay his check.
"Everybody's affected by this, whether it be the relatives of the person that's struck, the driver, witnesses who see it. I mean, they're still going to have shock from what they observed and it's just not something that an everyday individual has to deal with, so it lingers with them for quite a while," Prickett said.
On Monday night, a 5-year old was killed and his 13-year-old sister is now in good condition after they tried to cross Peach Orchard Road, another busy four-lane highway.
"People aren't using their heads, they're not slowing down, they're in a rush and they don't want to rush," Prickett said.
And in each case, a crosswalk was only a few steps away.
"Out of the last five we've had, we've had I think three of them, were within 50 foot of the crosswalk. They just decided not to use it for some reason," Prickett said. "I think they're in a hurry. They don't want to cross at the crosswalks, 'cause they don't want to wait on the sign to tell them to go or to not go."
Now they're working to teach people about the laws and crack down on people breaking it.
"Some of them don't know the law, and I think that's where you get some confusion where I think some motorists don't understand what rights the pedestrians have and I don't think the pedestrians understand that they don't always have the right of way," he said.
Neither driver in the cases this week are expected to be charged. The Sheriff's Office is also meeting with traffic engineers this week to see if there's anything more that can be done to bring down these numbers.
There are 13 laws involving pedestrian and driver right of ways. Most of them start with the crosswalk. The Sheriff's Office is passing out the laws to deputies as a refresher. Click here to read the laws (PDF).