PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) –  The growing population combined with multiple traffic violators has caused the rate of accidents to spike in Panama City. 

The Panama City Police Department is working with the Florida Department of Transportation and the University of North Florida to combat the issue.

“The object is to go out there and identify someone who is doing something that’s increasing their likelihood of being injured in a crash and educating them on the state statutes that help protect them,” said Panama City Police Deputy Chief John Moore. 

The DOT is funding the program. More than $17,000 came from the grant. The money will be used to compensate overtime for officers patrolling areas in need of extra police presence such as Highway 98 and Highway 231. 

“People are riding bicycles, looking at their phones or they’re walking across the street and they’re looking down at their phone,” said Moore. “They’re not paying attention to the fact that they might be in the crosswalk and it might be their pedestrian light that gives them the right of way, but it’s really still upon them to be aware of their surroundings.”

With school back in session, Panama City Police emphasize the importance of traffic safety. School zones are activated again, yet some people still speed through those areas putting students at risk. 

“Think about the number of school kids around a school. They are walking home and, now they’re out of school and they get to use that device for the first time in 8 hours and they’re on it,” said Moore. 

The high-risk traffic areas have been identified based on data collected on fatal accidents over the past 4 years. Officers will also be patrolling other roads in the city that commonly experience traffic violations and accidents.