Speed Kills

By the time you see them, it’s already too late.

Motorists with a lead foot, be forewarned.

More speeding tickets are issued in Chautauqua County than any other driving violation. In fact, according to a report by the Institute for Traffic Safety Management and Research tracking driving data from 2009-11, speeding was the No. 1 citation issued by every police agency in the county.

Also studied were alcohol-related citations, the second most common, and seatbelt-use violations, the third most cited driving infraction.

State Police, with barracks in Jamestown and Fredonia, issued 8,222 speeding tickets in 2011, more than 60 percent of all citations issued in the county by police that year.

“In addition to being a full-service law enforcement agency, one of the State Police’s mission priorities is to ensure the safety of all those who use New York’s highways,” said Sgt. Gary Segrue, station commander for the Jamestown State Police barracks. “As we see it, our job is to make the state’s roadways safer.”

Segrue said speeding deterrence does not come solely by issuing warnings, but by enforcing vehicle and traffic laws, compiling and analyzing driving data, and education. State Police also routinely work with local police agencies in conducting special enforcement details, he said.

“Special attention is directed at state and interstate highways that run through Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties,” he said, noting a special Interstate 86 unit stationed at the Chautauqua Lake rest area that patrols a 56-mile-stretch of highway.

Troopers in the unit issued 3,215 traffic tickets last year, more than 2,000 of which were for speeding, according to Segrue.

The Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office and Lakewood-Busti Police Department cited their fair share of speedy motorists as well, issuing around 2,500 and 660 tickets, respectively. Even officers at the State University at Fredonia are issuing dozens of speeding tickets a year, the report states.

SPEED LEADS TO CRASHES

According to the driving report, sponsored by the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, 10 percent of all crashes in the county in 2011 involved speeding. It was the third-leading cause of crashes behind driver inattention and failure to yield the right of way.

More than 100 motorists were injured, the report states, and more than half of speed-related accidents resulted in property damage.

Of the 270 speed-related crashes, one resulted in fatality. One fatality was recorded in 2010, and four in 2009 that were linked to fast driving. Data shows 70 percent of injuries from the crashes are to the driver; and of the seven crashes involving a bicyclist, three resulted in injuries.

Numbers worth noting:

68: The number of multiple vehicle crashes in 2011 due to unsafe speed. That’s up from the 53 crashes in 2010 and 58 the year before that.

3: The number of pedestrians struck by a speeding vehicle. The last time a pedestrian was hit before that was in 2009, the report states, when one person was struck.

19: The number of speeding drivers injured who were not wearing a restraint device. However, on average 85 percent of drivers who were injured in a crash reported using their seatbelt.

64, on Friday: The number of crashes in 2011 in which speed played a factor. As with alcohol-related accidents, most occurred over the weekend. The day with the fewest crashes: Monday, between 6 a.m.-noon, where one accident was reported.

TECHNOLOGY HAS IMPROVED

State and local police use a mix of radar and laser units while on patrol. The radar units used by State Police, Segrue said, use a high-frequency band that is less susceptible to recognition by civilian radar detectors. The units are mounted by two antennas, one on the rear on the patrol vehicle and one in front, and can target speed of approaching or receding vehicles.

Troopers can activate radar while parked or moving.

“Technology has certainly come a long way for us,” said trooper Steve Chriest, who on Thursday attempted to spot speeding vehicles on Interstate 86 near Jamestown with a reporter present. “But with radar, although some of the equipment may have changed, a lot of it has stayed the same.”

With laser detectors, pulses of infrared light are used to measure speed while in a stationary vehicle, Segrue said. Unlike radar, lasers use narrow beams, making them more practical while enforcing congested traffic.