Sheriff Adds Pony to Force

It may be one of the coolest high performance cop cars you’ll see on the road in Johnston County – hopefully not with flashing blue lights in your rear view mirror – but it has a very serious purpose.

A SAFE Team deputy stops a car for a speeding violation Monday near Smithfield.

Last week, Sheriff Steve Bizzell added an unmarked 2018 Ford Mustang GT to the Sheriff’s Office Vehicle Fleet.

This vehicle was assigned to the Sheriff’s Aggressive Field Enforcement (SAFE) Team to patrol the rural roadways of the county, including roads near high schools, in an effort to promote highway safety awareness.

“The response from motorists over the past week has been overwhelmingly positive and citizens have been so appreciative of our proactive enforcement efforts,” Sheriff Bizzell told WTSB News and JoCoReport. “With school beginning later this month, we encourage our teenage drivers to obey the speed limit, wear their seatbelt, and refrain from using their cell phone while driving.”

Sheriff Bizzell said the unmarked Mustang will be used heavily around high schools when students return on August 27th. Recent statistics show the number of accidents involving teens in the county is beginning to slowly increase.

Johnston County ranked 10th in the state for teen fatalities and injuries between 2013 and 2017. During the 5-year period, 1324 teens were injured and 12 were killed in highway crashes in Johnston County. But in 2017, Johnston jumped to 4th in the state in teen highway deaths.

2018 numbers in the county show traffic deaths involving teens is down but young drivers are being involved in more collisions. From Jan. 1 to Aug. 1, 2018 the Highway Patrol investigated one fatal accident involving a teenager in the county. However, the total number of accidents involving teens is up 13 percent in the first seven months of 2018 compared to the same period in 2017. (Statistics did not differentiate between injury and non-injury accidents)

The Johnston County Sheriff’s Office “Pony” a 2018 Ford Mustang GT assigned to the SAFE Team for enforcement efforts around high schools and secondary roads of Johnston County.

Since 2006, nearly 9 of out 10 fatal crashes involving teens in Johnston County has occurred on rural roadways in the county. Less than 10 percent involve alcohol. The majority of teens killed were not wearing seat belts.

Sheriff Bizzell said the new Ford Mustang patrol car will not only be used around school zones but in other problem areas known for speeding, reckless driving and other violations.

In July, SAFE Team deputies issued 607 citations and warnings to drivers. Among them were 102 citations for driving without a license or driving on a revoked license, 75 for speeding or reckless driving, 8 DWI arrests, 7 seat belt, 2 child restraint, 63 drug violations, 11 criminal charges, and the apprehension of 6 wanted persons.

“The good citizens of our county are sick and tired of drunk drivers, aggressive speeders, and motorists with total disregard for public safety. We have been very successful in reducing teen fatalities in our county and this Mustang will assist us in continuing the progress of keeping our county a safe community to live, work, and raise our children,” Bizzell added.

Be on the lookout for the Mustang on a rural roadway in your community very soon.