Deputies using Lidar to reduce speeding and traffic deaths

MACHESNEY PARK (WIFR) -- 32 people have died on Winnebago County roads this year. In the area the sheriff's department handles four more people have died so far this year compared to all of last year. Now deputies are trying to save lives and get us to slow down.

It didn't take more than a few minutes for Deputy Ken Austin to find a speeder. Standing on the side of Harlem Road Deputy Austin zeroed in on fast drivers with a machine called Lidar. He radios information to the squads before they pull cars over.

"It allows us to get into areas where we're having issues, where we're having accidents," Deputy Chief Dominick Barcellona, with the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Department, said.

The handheld speed guns are more accurate than the radar in squads, letting deputies focus on specific cars.

"You can point the laser right at the vehicle, right at the license plate and you know exactly the speed, the distance, that it is," Deputy Chief Barcellona said.

These patrols aren't popular with some drivers, but the sheriff's department says it’s a critical and easy way to help reduce traffic deaths.

"We don't write tickets just to write them. We have a problem that we're trying to address with speed being a big factor in fatalities as well as personal injury accident," Deputy Chief Barcellona said.

Most deadly crashes are caused by what police call the fatal four: Speeding, no seat belts, DUI, and distracted driving.

Traffic fatalities are up in the state and in the county. So far the sheriff's department says 12 people have died in crashes this year, that's compared to 8 in all of 2015.

Deputies say most tickets they give are for drivers going 15mph or more over the limit.

The sheriff's department has had Lidar for several years, but just got several new ones to replace older outdated models.