Johnson County motorists may complain about the traffic on their daily commutes, but one study shows fewer serious accidents happen here than in other central Indiana communities.
Fewer people died in a vehicle accident in Johnson County in 2012, and more drivers and passengers were wearing their seat belts, compared with other central Indiana counties, according to a report from the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute.
The annual traffic study uses Indiana State Police numbers to determine the factors behind accidents for all 92 counties in the state. Johnson County ranked below the state average in nearly every category in 2012, the most recent numbers available, except accidents involving a drunken driver.
There were 3.5 fatal accidents per 1,000 people in Johnson County, compared with the state median of 15. Only 2.2 percent of people involved in an accident were not wearing a seat belt, according to the study, compared with the state average of 3.6 percent.
Police believe the two factors may be related. Drivers have been pulled over for nothing more than not wearing a seat belt, and the fear of a potential ticket has led more people to buckle up, Franklin Police Lt. Kerry Atwood said.
Wearing a seat belt can’t prevent an accident, but it can lessen the injury if one occurs. But police warn that driving the speed limit is the best way to prevent accidents. In Johnson County, 6.4 percent of accidents were speed-related, well below the 8.9 percent state average.
Sheriff Doug Cox knows the specific roads where drivers are more inclined to speed. Deputies will sit at the side of the road with radar guns and give tickets if they catch someone driving too fast or pull someone over if they see a vehicle fly by them, he said.
Recent data compiled by Franklin show drivers in the city stick close to the speed limit for the most part. Officers in Franklin periodically use a Stealth Stat, a device that sits on a pole and records the speed of cars driving down that specific street.
The police department uses the device to compile data on an area when multiple residents report concerns about speeding or when officers notice numerous problems in the same place. The data are used to determine if more officers are needed in that area to try to catch speeding motorists.
The department used the device late last year on a portion of East King Street. They found that some motorists would drive 5 or 10 mph above the speed limit, and an occasional driver would be clocked at more than 20 mph over the limit. In the end, the speeds averaged out to be close to the speed limit for the road, Atwood said.
The county did rank higher than the state average in one major category: accidents involving a drunken driver.
In Johnson County, 3.1 percent of accidents involved a drunken driver, tied with Morgan County for the most of any county in central Indiana. The state average is 2.8 percent. Marion County was the lowest central Indiana county with 2 percent of accidents there involving a drunken driver, followed closely by Hamilton County with 2.1 percent.
Local officers regularly participate in Operation Pullover, a program that uses grant money to pay for the overtime of local officers specifically looking for drunken and impaired drivers. Franklin also has set up DUI checkpoints.