Oconee County Sheriff’s deputies and Georgia State Patrol troopers went looking for distracted drivers Friday morning and the number of cars they stopped surprised even them.
“The numbers were actually staggering to us. We were expecting a lot of stops, but we didn’t realize it would be this many,” Oconee County sheriff’s Chief Deputy Lee Weems said.
In just a three-hour period, the officers made 96 stops, issued 59 tickets of which 30 were for distracted driving, and gave out 38 warnings, according to figures released by the sheriff’s office.
The impetus for the crackdown was due an increasing number of vehicle wrecks in Oconee County.
“We are averaging about 180 wrecks a month over the last 18 months,” Weems said. “The common thread seems to be distracted driving.”
The sheriff’s office has tried to get the word out about distracted driving, even making posts on its popular Facebook page, but Weems said “it does not seem to be getting through, so we planned this event with the (Georgia) State Patrol and they provided six troopers.”
The officers worked traffic at two locations — Butler’s Crossroads near Watkinsville and at Epps Bridge Parkway in the county’s heavy commercial district.
“I saw one instance of a trooper parked in a lane of travel and a guy pulls up next to the trooper and is texting,” Weems said. “He was using both thumbs just typing away.”
Weems said marked units made the traffic stops.
“We weren’t trying to hide … and in any direction you looked you saw blue lights flashing,” he said.
The effort to stop texting while driving and distracted driving will not end with Friday’s enforcement, according to Weems.
“The sheriff has authorized the patrol division to schedule deputies for overtime and work distracted driving,” he said.