Speeding continues to be a major problem with major consequences on Interstate 85 through Coweta County.
Georgia State Patrol’s Newnan Post Commander Sgt. Lance Greene and Coweta County Sheriff’s Office Lt. John LaChance are teaming up to make the Coweta corridor of Interstate 85 safer during ongoing construction. They are planning several enforcement crackdowns to get their point across.
From Dec. 1, 2006 — when the interstate widening and repaving project began — to June 1, 2009, the sheriff’s office’s traffic unit has worked 1,891 accidents on the county’s interstate corridor, according to LaChance. Of those accidents, 11 resulted in fatalities, and there were 728 injuries.
The sheriff’s office has issued 2,921 citations this year so far, and, of those, 2,611 were for speeding, said LaChance.
The speed limit through the construction zones is 50 mph and it will remain that way until the construction concludes and the state takes possession of the road from the contractors.
“There are a lot of people who are going 50-55 mph,” said Greene. “The message is out. Enforcement efforts have worked. But there’s always going to be a certain percentage of people who will exceed the speed limit. We are very forgiving of speed out there and we can still write tickets all day long. This is not about generating revenue — we’re being so forgiving that we should tighten up a bit.”
“Within one hour we can write 15 tickets, no problem — and that’s with high grace,” LaChance added.
Motorists who choose to drive 85 mph and above are basically declaring that they know “everything’s going to be perfect,” according to Greene. He said those motorists leave no reaction time in case something unexpectedly goes wrong.
“You can do everything right and that one guy out of 50 can do something stupid and all the other cars will get caught in it,” said Greene.
LaChance said the biggest ticket he’s written on the interstate was for a motorist traveling 108 mph. Greene has written a ticket for 101 mph and one for 105 mph — both motorists were stopped during the morning commute just north of Bullsboro Drive. Greene once clocked a motorcycle traveling 132 mph driving on the opposite side of the barrier wall, but he couldn’t get to him.
When the speed limit goes back to 70 mph after the construction project is finished, leniency will be gone, the officers warn. Anything over 85 mph — beginning Jan. 1 — will be violating the state’s new “Super Speeder” legislation and cost the driver an additional $200 on top of the citation. Also, speeding in construction zones doubles fines.
Motorists will be seeing a lot more law enforcement officers on the interstate. They plan to increase their visibility to pace traffic — especially over the upcoming Labor Day holiday weekend.
In addition to increased patrols around Labor Day, police will be using lasers to catch speeders during Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s. They also target drivers who are following too closely, motorists conducting improper lane changes, anyone driving under the influence and other traffic violations.
“We will be out there on travel days,” said LaChance. They are also aiming for one concentrated day a month in addition to holidays and routine patrols.
LaChance and Greene are pleading with drivers to pay attention to interstate signage as road conditions continue to change during the final stages of construction. They should especially pay attention to the signs warning of lane shifts, ones indicating an exit-only lane, and ones instructing drivers to merge ahead.
“We’re begging people to slow down,” said LaChance. “Slow down and save a little money in gas.”
The sheriff’s office is hoping to keep the number of wreck fatalities down to no more than 10 this year, through a campaign of education and enforcement. So far, the county’s had six traffic deaths.
Still, the sheriff’s office has consistently reduced the number of traffic-related deaths. In 2005, there were 34 deaths; in 2006, there were 26; in 2007, there were 20; and last year, there were 12.
“Don’t speed, don’t follow too closely and don’t drink and drive,” said Greene.
Article by Elizabeth Richardson, Newnan Times Herald
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