In 2009 there have already been eight traffic fatalities in Logan County. That's more than for the entire year of 2008, when there were seven fatalities, and much more than the average of three to four per year.
“We've got to do something," said Sheriff Wallace Whittaker.
In an effort to decrease roadway fatalities, the Logan County Sheriff's Office is working with the Kentucky Office of Highway Safety (KOHS) to coordinate an enforcement blitz on roads throughout the county beginning July 1.
“Our office closely monitors the state to identity areas with higher-than-average roadway fatalities,” said Boyd Sigler, director of the KOHS Division of Highway Safety Programs. “With eight fatalities so far this year in Logan County, this blitz will raise awareness of safe driving habits while enforcing all traffic safety laws, with an emphasis on seat belt usage and speed.”
Erin Eggen, program coordinator for the KOHS, said sheriff's office took the initiative in working with their office to focus on traffic enforcement with the goal of preventing fatalities.
"We're very willing and very pleased to help out law enforcement in any way we can to save lives," Eggen said. "That's a goal we share."
Pointing to a map of Logan County that showed the locations of the fatalities, Whittaker told members of the KOHS that most had occurred in the northern part of the county and most between the hours of 6 and 8 a.m.
"Motorists are typically going to work or school at that time," Whittaker said. "We believe many are not fully awake or are distracted by other passengers, cell phone use, or their own thoughts about the upcoming day."
Whittaker said officers will be looking for signs of drowsy driving and driver inattention during the blitz. The sheriff's office will also be aggressively patrolling the roadways and establishing traffic safety checkpoints at various locations along routes in the northern part of the county. KOHS portable visual speed radar units will be used, notifying drivers of their speed and reminding them to comply with the posted speed limit. Orange diamond signs stating that drivers are in a "targeted enforcement area" will also be used to alert drivers to the upcoming enforcement emphasis. Whittaker said officers will also be focusing more on enforcing the use of seatbelts.
Eggen said Logan County is taking this effort a step further by carrying it through the entire month of July. Another part of the effort is a statewide Blue Lights Across the Bluegrass campaign targeting counties with four or more fatalities this year. Each of the affected police departments will receive federal funding from the KOHS to help pay for overtime costs.
Sigler said the increase in enforcement is not about writing tickets, but improving overall safety in the county.
"By combining our efforts with Sheriff Whittaker and his staff, we fully believe lives will be saved," Sigler said.
Whittaker said they hope to get discussions going between family members, neighbors and friends on ways to reduce crashes.
"This is a major concern of our office, and we're pleased to work with the Office of Highway Safety to educate drivers on safe driving habits," Whittaker said.
"We're gonna do what it takes to save lives," he said.