Augusta saw a record number of traffic fatalities in 2012. (WRDW-TV)
News 12 at 11 o'clock / Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013
AUGUSTA, Ga.(WRDW) -- Forty-two; that's the number of traffic deaths in Richmond County last year. It's a record for the county and the second highest number of fatalities in the state per capita. Now, the Traffic Safety Division of the Sheriff's Office is making changes to bring that number down.
The number of traffic fatalities has gone up annually in recent years, so they are restructuring the Traffic Safety Division to keep more officers on the streets and in the most dangerous areas.
Rex Michael has lived off Mike Padgett Highway for more than 20 years.
"Everyone in Augusta and south Augusta knows that this road is dangerous, but what other choice do we have?" he said.
He's seen too many accidents, even a few fatalities.
"That's more than what you need on a road," Michael said. "That right there should have been a telltale sign that something needed to be done years ago, but you know, you can't go back, so let's just go ahead and move forward and do something now."
To help lower the number of fatal accidents, the division is making changes, including making themselves more visible, especially in areas like I-520, I-20 and Mike Padgett Highway.
"You're gonna see them in areas where you never really saw them before," said Lt. Amelio Lamkin. "You're gonna see them stopping more cars, you're gonna see them having more interaction with the citizens."
He took over the division Jan. 1 and brings with him 10 years of experience with the Georgia State Patrol.
"The State Patrol is tried and true what they've been doing has been working, so a lot of stuff that I will be using from the state patrol carrying them on here to lower the fatalities, lower the crashes and the injuries," Lamkin said.
Through a partnership with Governor's Office of Highway Safety and GSP, they'll be analyzing accident data of the most dangerous roads and intersections and that's where they'll focus their efforts.
"It has been the first time the traffic division has done anything like this," he said. "Before they just rode beats and they rode areas the north and the south side. They didn't really have a focused effort like we do now."
Michael says he's already starting to notice a difference.
"I've seen it actually. I've seen it on Bobby Jones in the past few weeks, so it's helped," he said.
It's also a part of the sheriff's new community policing effort. By having 42 deputies focused solely on traffic and accidents, it allows road patrol deputies to spend more time in the communities getting to know the people.
Last year, Richmond County also had 13 pedestrian deaths. They are going to have an enforcement effort on that as well as traffic safety because they say a lot of this is about educating the public.
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