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City traffic: Frenzied but not fatal

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By Lisa King

Traffic accidents in the city are less severe, but more frequent, than on county roads, according to Shelbyville Police Chief Robert Schutte.

An article in Wednesday's paper reported that there were seven fatalities on county roads both in 2007 and 2006, compared with none in the city. However, there were many more "fender benders" in the city than on roads in the county. Schutte said this is only to be expected, because city roads are more heavily traveled. He added that most of the accidents in the city occur in the downtown area, on Main Street and on Midland Trail.

"That's where the majority of the traffic is, and that's where the majority of the accidents are," he said. "As traffic increases, you will have a greater propensity for accidents."

Rear enders

Although excessive speed was cited as one of the main causes for accidents in the county, both Schutte and Officer Istvan Kovacs say that most city accidents are caused by people following other cars too closely, failing to yield the right of way, and driver inattention.

Speed is not as much of a factor in city accidents because the flow of traffic is much slower, which creates other problems, such as tailgating.

"Most of your rear-end accidents are from somebody following too close," Kovacs said. "People are not paying attention to what they're doing."

So far this year, the city accident rate is lower than last year, Schutte said.

"I can tell you that between 2007 and 2008 between Jan. 1 and July 31, we are down 55 accidents," he said.

During the first half of last year, there were 344 collisions on city streets. Of those, 49 injuries occurred, compared to 289 total collisions during the same time period this year, with 31 injuries.

Even though speed is not much of a factor on main city thoroughfares, it is a problem on some neighborhood streets, said Shelbyville Public Works Director Al Minnis, who has plans to deal with that situation.

"We have a project that we're working on which will help with watching for kids," he said.

Minnis said several residents have reported speeders on residential streets and alleys, which endangers children, he said.

"They're telling me that people are going through those alleys sometimes at 35-45 mph," he said.

In addition, some of them are not stopping at intersections.

"Sometimes they will stop at the streets and sometimes they will just slow down but keep going," he said.

Minnis said he thinks the reason that most people obey the speed limit on the city's main streets but not in neighborhoods is because they think they are more likely to get away with doing so.

"People take advantage if they don't see a policeman," he said.

Speed bumps

Minnis has plans to slow traffic down in neighborhoods in which residents have reported speeders.

"Like, we have an alley that's pretty active between Brown and Magnolia...where people are speeding through there, we're going to put in speed bumps, starting next week," he said.

Linden Lane and Oak Street are other problem areas, he said.

Other measures include installing more stop signs in some neighborhoods.

"One of the streets will be out on Cypress, like Bell Avenue and Mareli and in that area," he said.

In addition to stop signs, other signs cautioning people to slow down are planned for other areas, including Cypress and Dobson Lane. These signs may depict either a child with a ball or someone walking, Minnis said.

"We hope to slow people down to 15 or 20 mph per hour," he said.

He added that the letters will be sent out to residents in these areas, informing them that the signs are going to be installed.

DUI campaign launched today

Also, an anti-DUI campaign called, "Over the limit, under arrest," will be launched today, Aug. 15, by the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.

The campaign, an enforcement and education initiative which will run from Aug. 15 through Labor Day, is intended to warn motorists of the dangers of drunk driving.

As part of the educational efforts, the Drive Smart "3-D Car," which simulates conditions that drivers experience while inebriated, will also be available upon request by schools and other agencies.

Simpsonville police officer Istvan Kovacs said that police will do their part by stepping up patrols during this time.

"We will be trying to target the DUI enforcement and looking for reckless drivers," he said. "We will work more with other agencies; it will be a combined effort, " he said.

The Shelby County Sheriff's Office has announced that deputies will also be participating in the campaign by launching an "intensive crackdown on impaired driving."

According to a statement released by the sheriff's office, "Law enforcement vow to arrest everyone found driving over the (blood alcohol) limit."

The sheriff's office reports that, according to the latest data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 32 percent of fatalities involved a driver with a blood-alcohol level of .08 or above. On average, a fatality occurs every 39 minutes. In 2006, 13,500 people died in a crash where the driver was legally impaired. Among them, 306 victims were children under age 15.

The Kentucky State Police will also be getting into the act, with troopers conducting periodic traffic safety checkpoints as well as special traffic enforcement in high collision areas using radar, laser and saturation patrols.