Rome Police Department

Accidents with injuries are down from a year ago in the city of Rome and Rome Police Department Capt. Chris DeHart is cautiously crediting the new hands-free driving law.

The statewide prohibition against using an electronic device behind the wheel of a car went into effect July 1. Local police issued warnings the first month, 18 citations in August and are ramping up enforcement now with a distracted driving detail.

"I think it is making a little bit of an impact," DeHart told the city's Public Works, Transit and Traffic Committee Wednesday.

While "following too closely" remains the No. 1 cause of crashes, DeHart said it accounted for just 45 percent of the tickets issued in August compared to 50 percent in July. And, after an increase in injuries — indicating more significant collisions — they dropped in August to 59, compared to 73 in August 2017.

Two months of data isn't enough to make a pronouncement, he said, but the trend is looking good.

"Hopefully, with more education and awareness we'll see it continue," DeHart said. "With injuries coming down and citations going up ... I think we could see a reduction statewide."

Committee members also got an update from Transit Director Kathy Shealy on bus ridership since the start of school. Officials had discussed buying two more buses due to higher enrollment numbers, but held off for the time being.

Shealy said the first week of school brought an increase of 75 to 100 more student riders a day. It's working well, she said, although it involved some routing changes.

"We've been able to handle it ... but it does show definitely that another bus or two would help," she told the committee.

Public Services Manager Kirk Milam also announced that a study of signalized intersections in the city is underway by Georgia Department of Transportation consultants. They're looking at the number of vehicles using state routes.

"Well over 50 intersections are getting counts to see if they're operating at optimum ... It's important to us because they'll come back with recommendations for improvements," he said.

While the consultants are gathering the information, Milam said staffers are doing some independent studies to draw their attention to problem areas.

"We're going to give them our list of priority concerns," he said.

Braves Boulevard at the bypass is one example, and Milam said the local numbers will include Chatillon Road — which affects the main intersection even though it's on Riverside Parkway instead of a state route. Callier Springs Road at U.S. 411 has a similar back-up where vehicles funnel out from Chulio Hills subdivision.

"I don't think people have a good understanding of the population of Chulio Hills," Commissioner Randy Quick, a committee member, agreed.

Milam said the state's computer modeling will likely focus on the timing of the lights, lane assignments and other ways to move traffic more efficiently without building new roads.