Tribune-Courier News Editor
BENTON — Federal funding through the Departments of Homeland Security and Highways is making Marshall County safer for motorists.
Sheriff Kevin Byars said his department received $25,000 for equipment and overtime to patrol county roads. This is an increase from $20,000 received last fiscal year. Byars said the funding not only goes toward overtime and fuel for increased patrols, but allows his department to purchase three new field breathalyzers and a new radar to enforce speed limits. Last year, the grant only provided overtime pay.
Deputy Jason Ivey said the grant gives deputies up to 16 voluntary hours of overtime to patrol each month.
“We’re doing this to save lives and prevent crashes,” Ivey said. “We’re working to reduce injuries on the roadways. We’re not doing this because we have a quota.”
Ivey called the program a success. While he did not have figures for 2011, he said accidents fell in 2010 vs. 2009. 2009 saw 12 fatal wrecks, while 2010’s fatalities fell to 4. He credited the enhanced enforcement for a portion of the reduction.
“Mainly we’re looking for speeding and DUI,” Ivey said. “We’re also enforcing any sort of inattentive or careless driving and seat belts. We did a count in Benton in 2011. Of 100 motorists, only 77 were in compliance with seat belt laws.”
Byars said the campaign is focusing on U.S. Highways 62 and 68. He considered both to be hotspots for motorist violations and with the greatest potential and history of wrecks and fatalities.
“The results show this has been working,” Byars said. “We haven’t had near as many bad wrecks compared to this time last year. The Department of Highway Safety must think it’s working too, because they keep giving us money. We’re one of the few departments on this end of the state that keeps getting money.”
Ivey said most of the grant funds rolling patrols, but the department plans to conduct traffic safety checkpoints in August.