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Wednesday, October 24th, 2012
By Margie Wuebker
County nabs traffic safety grants
Motorists will see more officers on local roadways
  Motorists may notice an increase in law enforcement patrol as the Mercer County Sheriff's Office received nearly $55,000 in grants to help pay for overtime aimed at reducing traffic accidents.  
Chief Deputy Gery Thobe said the goal of a nearly $20,000 High Visibility Overtime Grant is to look for infractions that could result in accidents.
"It's no secret motorists tend to slow down when they see a cruiser," he said. "It really doesn't matter whether the cruiser is on the road or pulled off in a safe area at the side of the road. Speed is a factor in a lot of accidents."
In addition to running radar equipment and watching for violations, deputies will be looking for signs of impaired driving as well as drivers texting, he said.
Deputies handled 320 traffic accidents through Sept. 30 with 84 involving injuries to drivers and/or passengers.
Thobe and Capt. Martin Emerine are reviewing past accident reports to determine the most frequent time periods and locations. This information will be used in assigning patrol coverage.
The second grant, a $35,000 Safe Communities 2013 grant, will establish a fatal crash review team to target issues that caused the accidents.
"The key players will be people who are involved with these accidents first hand," Thobe said. "The sheriff's office already has trained accident reconstruction people, but this new team will look into other factors."
He expects the team to be comprised of law enforcement officers and representatives of the coroner's and county engineer's offices. Some school personnel also may be called on to serve, he added.
The grant covers the cost of educational material, supplies and needed equipment.
The county has recorded 15 traffic fatalities thus far during 2012. Three of the 10 crashes occurred along U.S. 127. Some of the factors leading to the crashes included impaired drivers, traveling left of center and failure to yield.
"U.S. 127 ranks high in terms of accident frequency, and we will be determining other target areas," Thobe said. "Our goal is to identify problem areas and address them before accidents occur."
Both grants from the Ohio Department of Public Safety cover a period from Oct. 1 this year to Sept. 30, 2013.
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