Speeding Crackdown in Coweta County Georgia

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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I-85 Drivers In Georgia Warned

The lanes — and speeds — on portions of Interstate 85 in north Coweta will soon be dropping.

The Georgia Department of Transportation is shifting southbound traffic on I-85 starting at Exit 51/Sharpsburg-McCollum Road and extending to Exit 47/Bullsboro Drive beginning Feb. 8.

This traffic shift was originally scheduled to take place this weekend, and it’s subject to change again based on weather conditions.

Beginning at Exit 51 on I-85 southbound, the previous three lanes of traffic will be reduced to two travel lanes. This shift will extend southbound to Exit 47. In addition to the traffic shift and lane reduction, the posted speed limit of 60 miles per hour will be reduced to 50 miles per hour — and it will be strictly enforced, according to DOT District 3 Communications Officer Kimberly Larson. Message boards, signs, barricades, barrels and cones will be utilized to alert and channel motorists through the area.

The scheduled completion date for the I-85 widening project through Coweta is Dec. 31. Motorists should expect shoulder and lane closures on a continuing basis and are advised to use extra caution in construction work zones.

“We’ll be out there,” said Lt. John LaChance of the Coweta County Sheriff’s Office. “It’s a very narrow corridor they will be driving in, with no room for error.”

“I would like to remind motorists to slow down in the work zone,” said Larson. “Commuters might be surprised to learn they are 85 percent more likely to be injured driving through a work zone than the workers themselves. Not to mention the sting of a pricey speeding ticket, which can go as high as $2,000.”

The northbound traffic shift in the section from Exit 47 to Exit 51 has already gone into effect.

“So far, we’ve had no major problems with the lane shift,” said LaChance.

LaChance advises motorists who will be entering the Interstate northbound from Bullsboro Drive to use caution and remember that they are required to yield to oncoming traffic. They also need to be aware of the other drivers behind them on the on ramp to avoid being rear-ended.

“Use caution approaching the end of the lane,” said LaChance. “People need to drive with eyes in the back of their head and in front of their head.”

There will be emergency pull-offs and breaks in the concrete barrier wall in the construction zone every 6,000 feet.

“If we do catch a traffic violator, we will wait until the end of the lane shift to pull them over,” said LaChance. “We will not turn our blue lights on until we reach a safe spot.”

“Motorists don’t always understand that when we are in the road, we’re actually trying to help them get where they need to go safer and faster,” Larson continued. “But, the speed limits are as much for their safety as that of our workers.”

The construction that will take place in sections from Exit 47 to Exit 61/Senoia Road in Fulton County is more than halfway complete, according to Larson.

The southbound lane shift next weekend will place motorists on the new lanes in order to complete work on the other travel lanes and shoulders. The DOT says it will not reopen lanes as the work progresses so that motorists don’t have to maneuver multiple lane closures.

“We have been asked if we would remove the barrier walls so that motorists could utilize all lanes,” said Larson. “We felt that this would be a safety concern because motorists would have to maneuver between the lane closures. So, the concrete barriers will remain in place until all lane work is complete.”

The remaining portion of the project stretching into Fulton County is continuing its paving operation and median barrier wall placement. Northbound traffic along this portion should see a traffic shift between milepost 57 to Exit 61 sometime in late February, according to Larson.

A separate portion of the widening work in southern Coweta County that stretches 14 miles from Exit 47 to Meriwether County is approximately 78 percent complete, according to Larson. She reports that all southbound concrete paving is complete in that portion of the project, except for a small section on the ramps of Exit 35 and 41.

“The contractor is continuing to work on raising bridges along this corridor,” said Larson of the southern project. “This is because of the increased height of the new concrete slabs.”

At the Exit 47/Bullsboro Drive interchange, work is about 35 percent complete. “This work is not behind schedule because the bridge work could not occur until the old northbound bridge was removed,” Larson continued. “Motorists will see a lot more progress in this area in the coming months.”

The DOT urges travelers to call 511 for updated information about this or any other construction project on interstates and state routes. Georgia 511 is a free phone service that provides real-time traffic and travel information statewide, such as traffic conditions, incidents, lane closures and delays due to inclement weather. Callers also can transfer to operators to request assistance or report incidents 24 hours a day, seven days a week. More information is available at www.511ga.org .

Article by Elizabeth Richardson from the Newnan Georgia Times Herald

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