SCDPS patrol increases during holiday in Fairfield

Lucas Vance Staff Writer

December 2, 2013

FAIRFIELD COUNTY — The S.C. Department of Public Safety urges motorists in Fairfield County to monitor road conditions as they begin Thanksgiving travel this year.

The official holiday travel period began at 6 p.m. Nov. 27 and will end at midnight Dec. 1. Fairfield County and surrounding counties are calling for cold, wet or snowy conditions at various times throughout the week.

“Thanksgiving is already one of our most heavily travelled holidays and when you couple that with the possibility of inclement weather at various times and places this week, this could create a volatile mix,” SCDPS Director Leroy Smith said.

It is predicted that 630,000 people in South Carolina will drive 50 miles or more from home to celebrate between Nov.27 and the Sunday (Dec. 1) after Thanksgiving.

The Highway Department has been focusing on Fairfield County and has brought in additional troopers during the holiday months. During the month of Nov., there have been 456 traffic citations, 476 warnings and they have investigated 33 collisions.

Last year state-wide there were 10 fatalities over the Thanksgiving holiday period that runs from Wednesday morning until Monday morning. Concentration areas during this holiday season include speed violations, DUI violations and seatbelt violations.

“We don’t want to catch anybody off guard but we are out actively looking for those violations to deter any injury or fatality crashes that may occur,” trooper Billy Elder said.

SCDP is specifically focusing on Fairfield County after looking at crash data from past holidays. During 2013, still with all of the holiday travel season left, there have already been eight traffic fatalities compared to nine during 2012. In 2012 there were two fatalities during the month of December.

“Even if we operate at the same level we did last year we will still exceed the number of fatalities,” Elder noted. “And each one of these represent a family and lives lost. We want to push out as much safety information as possible to avoid these tragic events.”

In Fairfield County during the month of Nov., speed violations (201 citations), DUI (seven violations) and seatbelt (186 citations) have been the majority of the total 456 citations.

Elder emphasized safety with those three (speeding, DUI and seatbelt) in order to avoid fatal crashes.

Interstate 77 represents 12-percent of the crashes that happen in Fairfield County.

“But really that leaves 88-percent of the crashes happening on the back roads,” Elder noted. “It is not just a problem traveling through but a problem with traveling locally as well. There are just so many things that can happen. A lot of our crashes happen on secondary roads.”

Highway 321, Highway 34 and Highway 200 are each responsible for nine-percent of the crashes and Highway 215 is responsible for 12-percent. Elder said that the majority of crashes are a result of some type of driver error.

“There are going to be a lot of people traveling and on the road and even though it might just be up the road there is still a lot that can go on and we want them to be as safe as possible,” he stated. “Hopefully our presence will keep drivers in line and operating within safety guidelines.”

Follow these five tips to ensure safe driving:

• Never out drive your headlights: Give yourself enough time to stop in your field of vision. Do not drive so fast that you can’t recognize a danger because your headlights don’t reveal it.

• Always plan ahead for a crash: Always tell yourself that the current trip could be the one you encounter and accident. Make sure everyone being buckled in the car.

• Drive sober: If you’re going to be drinking either get a designated driver or stay where you’re at.

• Lookout for pedestrians, bicyclist and motorcycles: Just because you don’t venture out on bicycles or motorcycles at a certain time of night or during weather conditions doesn’t mean other people don’t.

• Watch your speed: The posted speed limit is the maximum amount of speed allowed on a road in perfect conditions. Adjust your speed at night or during bad weather.