As Okaloosa County continues to grow, so do the traffic problems. Aside from close to 200,000 residents, there are an additional 2.3 million visitors a year driving our roadways. The Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office Traffic Unit is currently made up of nine full-time deputies, one part-time deputy and one auxiliary member who are working hard to keep these roadways safe for everyone.
The Sheriff’s Office receives more complaints about traffic in Okaloosa County than any other situation. With this in mind, the Traffic Unit is constantly searching for innovated ways to combat this ever growing problem. Some of the Traffic Unit deputies drive unconventional unmarked patrol vehicles and use them to identify and contact aggressive drivers in the county. They continuously conduct specialized operations in problem areas during critical times.
Portable radar trailers are placed in problem areas to increase public awareness of the posted speed limit. The Traffic Unit also utilizes a Stealth Stat radar unit to monitor speeds in complaint areas and determine peak violation times so targeted enforcement can be more effective. The unit also conducts red light running enforcement operations to increase public awareness and voluntary compliance with red light laws.
Members of the Traffic Unit can be found handling a multitude of assignments such as, conducting speeding and aggressive driving enforcement, patrolling other traffic complaints, DUI saturation patrols and conducting military and visiting dignitary escorts. In addition to traffic enforcement, the Traffic Unit conducts traffic safety and child restraint education to help young drivers and new parents learn safe driving habits.
The United States military makes up a significant portion of the population in Okaloosa County. Many members of the military come to Florida from other states. The Traffic Unit works closely with the military to provide traffic safety and education briefings to help military personnel become acclimated to local traffic laws. The Traffic Unit also works with the Community Traffic Safety Team. This is an organization that brings agencies and citizens together to address traffic problems in the county and work to provide solutions to these problems.
The Traffic Unit conducts DUI checkpoints throughout the year around the county. Checkpoints have proven to be a very effective means of deterring people from drinking and driving. All members of the unit have special training in DUI detection. They conduct specialized enforcement details in areas that have a high number of alcohol related crashes during the year.The Traffic Unit has two deputies that specialize in DUI enforcement. They are assigned to nighttime patrol to specifically conduct impaired driving enforcement. The Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office has a mandatory arrest policy regarding impaired drivers and maintains a very high conviction rate in the court system.
Traffic citations are divided into three categories, depending upon the severity of the offense. “Non-moving” violations are the least serious. “Moving” violations are considered more serious, and the most serious offenses are classified as “criminal”. About two-thirds of all citations local law enforcement officers write are for “moving” violations; the remainder is split fairly evenly between “non-moving” and “criminal”.
Almost everyone knows that DUI is a criminal violation. You may be surprised to learn of the other criminal violations on the top-ten list (could you have been guilty of one of these without knowing the severity?). Driving on a suspended license, driving a car with a tag with more than six months expiration, or driving with a license that expired more than four months ago are all criminal violations. Other examples include reckless driving, fleeing and eluding an officer, and leaving the scene of a collision.
With Okaloosa County’s growth comes an increase in roadway construction and improvements. Drivers should pay close attention to construction work zones. The Traffic Unit strictly enforces speed limits in construction zones throughout the county. This helps keep the workers and citizens safe as they work and travel in these areas.
When school is in session, drivers should pay close attention to school zones. The Traffic Unit strictly enforces speeds in school zones throughout Okaloosa County. By law, an officer is required to write a speeding citation to anyone caught speeding in a school zone. The Sheriff’s Office is serious about keeping children safe.
Florida has strict child restraint laws. The law requires that children riding in a motor vehicle must be secured in a safety seat until they turn four years of age. From age four through age 17 they must be buckled up with safety belts no matter where they are seated in the vehicle. Motor vehicles cause more deaths and injuries to children than all childhood diseases combined. Most of these deaths can be prevented if children are securely fastened into a child safety seat. The Traffic Unit will conduct child safety seat checks during the year to make sure the seats are installed properly. If you would like more information on child safety seats, visit the Beyond Just Buckled website or NTSB Child Safety Seat website.