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The Franklin News-Post
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
Fax: 540-483-8013

Radar patrols geared toward traffic safety
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Courtesy Photo: Patrol deputies are using radar, seen above on the vehicle dash, to help promote traffic safety in Franklin County.

Friday, February 21, 2014

By K.A. WAGONER - Staff Writer

The first year Sheriff Bill Overton took office 18 people died in crashes on Franklin County roads.

In 2012, traffic crashes totaled 929 and 517 motorists and passengers were injured in those crashes, according to Capt. Mark Torbert.

"The sheriff wanted to do something proactive to address those numbers," Torbert said. "One way to do that was to begin using radar in our patrol units for the very first time."

Radar had never been used by the sheriff's office until last year. The sheriff's office purchased the radar units with a grant from the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles.

"Speed is a factor in most fatalities and serious injury accidents," Torbert said, "and we wanted to help the Virginia State Police (VSP) troopers, who traditionally enforce speed limit laws in Franklin County."

This new partnership between the state police and county deputies allows troopers to concentrate more of their efforts on the main roadways -- like U.S. 220, Route 40 and Route 122 -- while deputies focus on the secondary roads, Torbert said.

First Sgt. Mike Bailey with the VSP said the agency's collaboration with local law enforcement entities helps promote highway safety.

In addition to state police efforts, deputies conducted 5,442 traffic stops in 2013, Torbert said. During those traffic stops, 930 motorists received warnings and 831 were cited for speeding as a result of radar enforcement. Other summonses also resulted from the stops, including equipment and child safety seat violations.

"We also use traffic stops as probable cause to further other investigations, including narcotics," Torbert said. "We have definitely seen an increase in drug related arrests from traffic stops."

The sheriff's office also purchased a radar trailer that is used throughout the county, Torbert said. The computer inside the trailer collects data, which allows the sheriff's office to target areas where speeding problems exist.

And the number of serious injury crashes in Franklin County? They were down to seven fatalities and 225 injuries in 2013, Torbert said. However, the total number of crashes increased to 1,413 in 2013.

"We are not trying to take credit for the drop in fatalities," Torbert said. "As a matter of fact, the 18 in 2012 was unusually high. The average for Franklin County is around eight per year."

"But the sheriff's office is committed to being proactive in its duty of protecting county residents," Torbert said. "And we will continue to do everything we can to prevent our citizens from being injured or losing their lives."

"These are real people, not just numbers on a spreadsheet to us," he added.

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