In the months ahead, sheriff’s deputies will focus on reducing serious-injury crashes and crashes involving the loss of life. Sheriff Jim Ruth has given his commitment to making roads safer, and through the Sheriff’s “Lifesaver” program patrol personnel will be vigilant for moving violations including driving impaired, speeding and not wearing a seat belt.
Sheriff Ruth announced the program today following several weeks of planning and preparation. In the announcement, he stressed the department’s “strong commitment to reducing fatalities,” and asked the public to become a safety partner with the sheriff’s Office.
Ruth said one way to show your support of these efforts is to examine your own driving to identify habits that can, and do, cause accidents.
“This is something that we can’t do by ourselves,” Sheriff Ruth said. “The Sheriff’s Office will need the support and cooperation of everyone working together to save lives.”
The Lifesaver campaign’s foundation will utilize a combination of education and high-visibility enforcement to spread its message.
One way deputies enforce traffic laws is through traffic stops. This allows them to point out the driver’s mistake and explain how to improve and become a safer driver. In conducting traffic stops, deputies can issue a citation, or issue the driver a verbal or written warning.
While the Sheriff’s Office does not like writing many citations, flagrant violations usually result in the offender receiving a court citation. Statistics show that overall only a small percentage of traffic stops result in charges.
In planning for the program, Sheriff Ruth has re-emphasized a directive he gave to his deputies the day he took office. He told his staff he expects nothing less than to treat citizens with courtesy and respect and in return to expect the same response.
As “Lifesaver” kicks off, Sheriff Ruth will be assisted in coordination of the program by Traffic Unit Lt. W.G. Campbell.
Campbell emphasizes that approximately 30 to 40 percent of fatal crashes the sheriff’s office investigates involve the use of alcohol. A similar number can be attributed to speeding as a contributing factor.
“These are two factors we need to work on,” Campbell said.
Statistics compiled by the traffic unit show Bradley County has suffered 11 fatalities this year in traffic accidents. Reports for each year since 2002 (eight and one-half years) reveals 143 people have been killed in traffic crashes in Bradley County. There were 17 fatalities in 2010.
Sheriff Ruth said the department’s goal is to reduce these crashes, and any loss of life is unacceptable.
The largest number of fatalities in any one year was 23 in 2002. The following year the traffic unit was formed and fatalities dropped to 14.
Through traffic stops, deputies have been able to solve other crimes and identify individuals with pending criminal charges.
The sheriff emphasized the county’s population growth and growth of retail business community has caused local traffic congestion to increase.
During upcoming holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s) the “Lifesaver” program will focus more on impaired driving. Sobriety checkpoints are planned in different locations with more information on that aspect of the program to come later in press releases to the Cleveland Daily Banner and other media outlets.
Periodic reports to the media will include updates on the progress of the “Lifesaver” program.
Campbell said motorists should expect an increased presence by the Sheriff’s Office in coming weeks.