London Police Officer Randy Medlock sat in a parking lot off Mill Street Friday keeping watch. After seeing a driver whose seat belt hung slack beside him, Medlock turned on his flashing blue lights and got ready to write a ticket.
“For the most part, people are understanding and really appreciative of what we’re doing,” he said. “The neighborhood on Mill Street is definitely glad we’re there.”
For the past several months, using $32,000 in federal grant funds, the London Police Department has been working overtime to get drivers to slow down, wear their seat belts and put their children in safety restraint seats.
The crackdown appears to be well merited.
“London has the most car accidents per capita of any city in Kentucky,” London Police Lt. Derek House said.
As such, police have targeted the most problematic areas of the city when it comes to speeding, driver inattention and driver neglect. Mill Street, a residential area often clogged with kids at the park, is one of them. Hal Rogers Parkway near KY 30 is another. Whitley Street, North Main Street, West KY 80 and KY 192 are also being closely watched.
“We take the number of accidents that have occurred on a roadway and determine if it’s an area that needs to be targeted for enforcement,” House explained.
This is the second year of the effort, and though London is notorious for its high accident rate, House said their diligence appears to be working. Officers recently surveyed that 76 percent of London drivers are now wearing their seat belts, 4 percent more than the state average.
That number has improved dramatically since the seat belt law was enacted.
“It used to be one out of 10 were wearing their seat belt,” Medlock said. “Now one out of 10 don’t.”
Accidents are also down this year. From January to July 23 last year, there were 564 accidents within the city limits. That number is down to 439 so far this year.
Of those accidents, House said speeding is the biggest contributing factor.
“The roadways themselves are actually laid out really well so speeding is one of the things that was brought up by the state,” House said. “Speeding is the largest problem.”
House said the response to the crackdown has been mixed.
“It depends, really, on who you ask,” he said. “If it’s the person getting the ticket, they don’t understand why we’re writing them one. If it’s the person who lives in the area, it’s more positive. I’d say it’s more positive than negative.”
Staff writer Tara Kaprowy can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.
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