RALEIGH, N.C. – Wake County has the second-highest number of fatal crashes in North Carolina.
Now, the Wake County Sheriff’s Office is trying to do something about it to try and save lives.
The sheriff’s office just got the green light to create a new unit to make roads safer.
Wake County Commissioners just approved the sheriff’s office to use $304,266 from the Governor’s Highway Safety Program grant for a new Crash Reduction Unit.
The grant money will be going to help crack down on speeders, drunk and reckless drivers.
A total of 1,523 people died in car crashes in 2020 across North Carolina.
According to a North Carolina Department of Transportation report, that’s the highest it’s been in more than 5 years.
“We can’t be everywhere, all the time,” said Wake County Sheriff Gerald Baker.
NCDOT reports that in Wake County, more people are dying on the roads.
In 2019, there were 74 traffic-related deaths.
In 2020, 88 people were killed.
So far in 2021, 49 people have died.
“If any officer is on his way to a call for service, and if the nature of the call is an assault or domestic…something is going on, we’re not going to sit here and go out to some little minor traffic stop,” said Baker.
Baker told CBS 17 that’s why they need a unit specifically designed to try to bring the crash rate down.
“When you look at the sheriff’s office, you don’t think traffic. We have some 850-plus square miles of territory and 12 municipalities,” he explained. “These three cars, their focus will be crash reductions and wrecks.”
The goal for the new three-deputy unit is to reduce the number of fatal, speed or reckless driving-related crashes by 10 percent by September 2022.
The first step is by changing the look of the new patrol cars that the sheriff’s office has already ordered.
“When we change the look, it gives us the benefit to be out there without looking inconspicuous,” said Baker.
He told CBS 17 drivers may see the new cars with ghostwriting or without bar lights.
While they work to hire for these new positions, Baker is anxious for the team to hit the road.
“We’ll find some staffing from in-house to get it going,” he said. “We need the bodies, we need the vehicles, and then we’ll be out there.”
Baker said the money they received is enough to get the unit up and running, but they hope to get more grants and funding to expand the program in the future.