COLUMBIA — The South Carolina Department of Public Safety announces the creation of new specialized teams to help curb increasing trends of aggressive driving as the state enters July 4th weekend and nears the halfway point of the 100 Deadly Days of Summer.
So far this year, South Carolina has seen 496 total fatalities on our roadways statewide compared with 468 last year.
The Independence Day travel period begins at 6 p.m. Friday, July 2, and ends at midnight Monday, July 5. Last year, there were 11 deaths on South Carolina roadways during the Independence Day holiday travel period.
The new Area Coordinated Enforcement (ACE) Teams announced today include Highway Patrol troopers and officers from the State Transport Police. The teams were developed to provide assistance to the seven Highway Patrol Troops with a goal toward improving response times in areas of high call volumes and to reduce serious injury and fatal collisions statewide. Working with the SC Department of Transportation, SCDPS uses its long-range Strategic Highway Safety Plan to guide enforcement efforts to areas most impacted by fatalities and collisions as well as in-house real-time dashboards and heat maps to show where those collisions are occurring and where additional enforcement is needed.
“During the past year, South Carolina has followed national trends of increased highway collisions, injuries, and fatalities,” SCDPS Director Robert Woods, IV said. “We also have seen a disturbing increase in aggressive driving behaviors, including speeds of over 100 mph, tailgating, drunken or drugged driving and road rage — all of which are unacceptable.”
To help curb these dangerous behaviors, the ACE Teams will use crash data and specialized resources to direct the agency’s traffic enforcement efforts to areas of the state where they are needed most. This approach will feature a mix of marked and unmarked vehicles, including the newest additions to the Highway Patrol’s fleet unveiled Wednesday: a group of unmarked, striped Dodge Chargers. The Chargers feature an assortment of body and stripe colors that allow troopers to blend in with traffic to better detect and enforce aggressive driving behaviors causing injuries and fatalities.
Wednesday’s unveiling came as South Carolina approaches the midpoint of the 100 Deadly Days of Summer — the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day when traffic fatalities typically increase. The total number of collisions during the 100 Deadly Days of Summer decreased from 36,652 in 2019 to 34,814 in 2020. However, the number of people killed rose from 266 in 2019 to 361 in 2020. The top three contributing actions leading to collisions were driving too fast for conditions; failure to yield the right of way; and driving under the influence.
“What these figures show is that the total number of collisions went down, but the severity of those collisions increased,” said Col. Christopher Williamson, commander of the Highway Patrol. “These driving behaviors are exceedingly dangerous and will not be tolerated. We want the public to know that the Highway Patrol will have every available trooper out this Fourth of July weekend to identify and stop these violators who are taking unnecessary risks and putting lives in danger on our roadways.”
The State Transport Police officers will focus on commercial motor vehicle traffic. The agency’s Safe DRIVE (Distracted, Reckless, Impaired and Visibility Enforcement) Units, including marked and unmarked trucks and Tahoes, will be deployed with officers who are proficient in the enforcement of egregious traffic violations like excessive speeding, DUI, reckless driving, and drug interdiction.
“Our officers working this weekend will be especially vigilant for unsecured loads, serious equipment violations and distracted-driving behaviors that may contribute to collisions,” STP Col. Dean Dill said. “We encourage other motorists to use caution when driving around commercial motor vehicles, steer clear of the blind spots and remember that trucks require more stopping distance.”
SCDPS will share safety messaging throughout the Fourth of July holiday travel period on its social media pages, and the agency’s “Drink. Drive. Die.” messaging will run through July 4 on radio and social media.
The South Carolina Department of Public Safety includes the Highway Patrol, State Transport Police, Bureau of Protective Services, Office of Highway Safety and Justice Programs, Immigration Enforcement Unit and the South Carolina Law Enforcement Officers Hall of Fame. Our mission is to ensure public safety by protecting and serving the people of South Carolina and its visitors.