Highway Patrols Increase Ticketing to Promote Safe Driving in Panama City
As a leading Panama City car accident law firm, our team works with those hurt in accidents that result from careless driving in Panama City and throughout Northern Florida. We believe in helping victims of Panama City car accidents. We also believe in working to educate members of our community in order to promote safe driving and prevent accidents from causing injury and financial loss to residents of and visitors to our region. We are joined in this effort by members of local and state law enforcement teams.
In the past decade, according to The News Herald, there has been a significant, steady rise in the number of traffic tickets issued by the Florida Highway Patrol ("FHP") in Bay County. FHP officers issued 8,687 tickets in 2001, a number that more than doubled ten years later with 18,478 tickets written in 2011. A spokesman indicated that the rise was due to a population increase and increased FHP presence due to an overtime program and the use of outside support to assist Bay County patrols with heavy enforcement in the Spring Break period. Captain Terry Blackmon, an FHP representative, said that enforcing the law is about saving lives, that the tickets were not a result of any quotas, and that the increase was not about the money collected. Panama City Police Department officials reiterated this safety message, noting that more than 3,000 crashes occur annually in the city and that many of the accidents lead to severe injuries or fatalities.
Blackmon noted that the FHP makes saving lives a priority, focusing first on assisting motorists after a wreck or other highway emergency, and second on monitoring areas with the highest number of traffic fatalities. After these two priorities, officers focus on citations for those traffic violations that are most likely to lead to a traffic death, including DUIs, reckless driving, speeding, and failure to wear a seatbelt. This focus, according to Blackmon, is about writing tickets that have meaning rather than focusing on more minor, less-dangerous violations.
Officers are also working to educate the public and change the behavior of unsafe drivers. Blackmon notes that the FHP publicizes holiday DUI checkpoints. Given the ability of drunk drivers to evade checkpoints simply by turning away from the area, these efforts rarely result in a large number of tickets and are more about making the public aware of enforcement efforts than actually issuing citations. FHP officers also use "wolfpacks" to catch DUI offenders, an effort that involves multiple troopers patrolling the same area. This method catches offenders and also makes police presence known. Blackmon cited a recent night when patrols stepped up their presence at the Hathaway Bridge. As the night progressed, officers noticed a significant increase in taxicab traffic indicating that word had spread about the patrols and more people were opting to call a cab and get home safely rather than driving while impaired. FHP officers consider this type of self-compliance a victory.
Our Panama City car accident lawyer applauds the FHP's efforts to make our roads safer. While no one relishes the thought of getting a ticket, hopefully the knowledge that patrols are actively monitoring Bay County roads encourages drivers to make safety-conscious decisions and leads to fewer tragedies on local roads.