COLUMBIA — The S.C. Highway Patrol is launching a Target Zero enforcement effort in the last months of 2013 called Operation Fourth Quarter.
Fans in South Carolina love football. And fans know that the game can often hinge on what happens in the fourth quarter.
“Football is a game but we are dealing with real life and death situations on our roadways,” said Highway Patrol Col. Mike Oliver. “The Fourth Quarter of the year is often the toughest for us when it comes to preventing highway deaths. We often come out of summer with encouraging highway safety trends but begin seeing a shift around October and the time change. We are doing all we can to prevent that tragic turn this year.”
The Fourth Quarter enforcement and education effort began Oct. 28 and there will be specialized enforcement efforts geared toward reducing collisions, injuries and deaths throughout November and December. Motorists can expect to see more troopers concentrating on areas that are consistently high in crashes. This can range from interstates to secondary roadways.
Captain D. W. Yongue of SCHP Troop Two, which includes Newberry County, said that his troopers will focus on DUIs and night time seatbelt enforcement during Operation Fourth Quarter.
He said that in his troop, Newberry, Laurens, Greenwood, Abbeville, Saluda, Edgefield and McCormick counties, he has seen a decrease in fatalities and alcohol related collisions this year. The Department’s goal is “Target Zero” and one life lost is one too many.
“We are concentrating on educational and enforcement efforts to continue this downward trend,” Yongue3 said. “So far this year, there have been 31 fatalities in Troop Two. The roadways that continue to cause the most concern include I-26, I-385, U.S. 21, U.S. 178, S.C. 184 and secondary roads.”
There was some good news recently that fatalities had dropped both nationwide and there was an even greater drop statewide in the first six months of 2013. Preliminary data indicate that nationwide, traffic fatalities decreased by 4.2 percent while South Carolina traffic fatalities decreased by 13.5 percent during the first six months of 2013 as compared to the first six months of 2012.
Historically, however the state has seen fatalities trend upward in the final few months of the year. After a decline in fatalities over the summer last year, fatalities steadily rose from October through December, causing the state to end the year with a 4.2 percent increase over 2011.
The leading traffic violations that are causing collisions and deaths on the highways are: speed, inattention, drunk/impaired driving and failure to buckle up.
On Nov. 8 and Nov. 9, 2013, driver safety checkpoints, nighttime safety belt enforcement, and speed/DUI saturations will be conducted during the evening. The special enforcement zones will focus on areas that have been problematic in terms of fatalities.
There have been 632 fatalities through Nov. 3 compared to 710 last year at this time. There have been 74 pedestrians killed this year compared to 100 last year at this time. After running behind throughout the year, motorcycle fatalities are rising again with 108 compared to 103 at this time last year. Out of 415 fatalities involving motor vehicle occupants this year, only 158 were wearing safety belts.
The counties that continue to lead the state in fatalities include Greenville, Richland, Horry, Charleston, and Lexington counties.
The Highway Patrol reminds motorists that while fatalities are behind last year at this time, Thanksgiving is one of the busiest travel holidays of the year. Christmas celebrations will continue through the month of December, historically driving up the incidence of impaired driving collisions.
“Fourth Quarter reminds motorists not to become complacent and let down their guard,” said Yongue. “We need our motorists acting as team players with our troopers and officers to prevent death on the highways.”