By CHUCK VANDENBERG
LEE COUNTY – The Lee County Sheriff’s office is giving everyone in the area a chance to slow down in an effort to beef up efforts to make county highways safer.
Not only is the department rotating speed indicator signs throughout the county, now they are actually asking the public about the best places to put deputies for enforcement.
Lee County Sheriff Stacy Weber said the department has polled people in the past, but this time they’ve received a large number of responses using Facebook.
“Normally what we do, and we’ve never really done it using social media, but we’ve asked people where they want to see us,” Weber said. “This week we just decided to ask on social media where people would like to see us doing directed patrols.”
He said directed patrols are stationary radar, following buses to monitor motorists obeying traffic arms, and that kind of enforcement.
He said there were six on staff the other day including himself and they went out and hit every place that was listed on the Lee County Sheriff’s Department Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/Lee-County-Iowa-Sheriffs-Office-1630841777222635/
Visits to the sheriff’s Facebook page show daily photos of where the Sheriff’s department is taking radar that day.
And Weber said he’s not worried about people knowing where they are. He said it’s a motorist safety issue with a focus on saving lives.
“We saw the response was awesome,” he said. “So we just made a list that day. There were six of us and we split it up and we went out and hit every spot they asked us for. One guy was asking for specific times and the times he was asking for didn’t work out, but we got everywhere.”
He said he can’t give people any more warnings than pictures of where they are. It’s a similar process to big cities that will actually have morning news programs tell motorists where they are.
“I think this is a fair way of warning them,” he said. “There’ll be no excuses. We’ve even told them we were going to be in the area. Bigger cities will do this, too. The bottom line is we’ve gotten complaints and we’re going to have a car there and you’ll get a citation if you’re speeding.
“This effort goes hand-in-hand with what the department is trying to do, which is increase awareness so people pay attention to driving habits without us writing tickets. If they get used to seeing us, they’ll do all the things they’re supposed to do. We don’t write a lot of tickets, we really don’t. It’s more of a contact thing to let them know they need to pay more attention to what they’re doing.”
Weber said he’s also working regularly with the Iowa Department of Transportation to look at high incident intersections and get signage or other precautionary measures in place that will reduce the frequency of incidents in the county.
“When we find trouble areas, I try to work with Bob Porter with the DOT in our area. We’ve had at least one meeting with the DOT regarding working traffic so we can slow the rate of the fatalities,” he said.
One such intersection is where the old Hwy 394 and Hwy 218 intersect just south of Donnellson. Weber said he’s had a car pull out in front of him while he was in his sheriff’s vehicle because they just didn’t see him.
“I just got a call from DOT regarding that intersection. We’ve been monitoring it to figure out why there have been so many incidents there and to see what we can do to improve it. Most of the time people tell us they don’t see cars coming, so we’re looking at improved signage, a flashing red light maybe or caution signs. They put that on and off ramp in and they’ve had issues there.”
Weber said the department is using whatever tools are the most successful to keep motorists safe while the department continues to do the other jobs on their plates.
“I think it’s just a shift from where we were to where we’re going,” he said. “We’ve managed to keep up with the civil papers and all the other jobs we have like running the jail, transportation, etc. All those things are getting done and we’re still being effective and responsive to complaints of citizens to help stop or prevent things from happening,” he said.