With the Fourth of July holiday rolling into town, many people will be rolling out of town to the beach, local ponds and lakes or the river, and authorities are urging people to exercise caution and safety this weekend whether traveling by car or by boat.
So far this year, there have been 14 fatalities on South Carolina waterways, said Capt. Robert McCullough, a spokesman for the S.C. Department of Natural Resources. There were 14 fatalities statewide in all of 2012.
McCullough said about 80 percent of the people killed on waterways would have been saved if they had been wearing life jackets, and he emphasized the importance of using them.
“Sometimes a life jacket will make what could have been a tragedy just a funny story,” he said. “There are a lot of times somebody jumped out of a boat or gets thrown out of a boat without a life jacket, and they don’t come up. It’s not a funny story anymore.”
People often don’t wear life jackets for the same reasons they don’t wear seat belts in cars, he said.
In addition to life jackets, McCullough urged people to examine their boat or watercraft to make sure it’s functional. Also, keep an eye on the weather before you head out and while you’re out.
He also advised people to take extra drinking water on the boat, especially if they plan to consume alcohol. Also, have a designated driver.
McCullough said officers will be cracking down on people boating under the influence.
“We’ll be using all of our force. All officers will be out this weekend,” he said. “We take that really seriously. Not that all safety things aren’t serious, but when somebody’s drunk and drives, it tends to be a worse accident.”
If you see someone boating while impaired, call DNR at 1-800-922-5431.
DNR will be teaming up with state, city and county agencies, including the S.C. Highway Patrol, to crack down on drunken driving.
“We’re always on the lookout for impaired drivers,” said Lance Cpl. Judd Jones, a spokesman for the Highway Patrol.
In addition to DUI, the patrol will be focusing their efforts on nighttime seat belt enforcement.
There were no fatalities on Aiken County roadways during the Fourth of July holiday in 2011 or 2012, Jones said.
“Make sure you give yourself extra time for travel because the roads will be busy,” he said.
Also, drive defensively and pay attention to the actions of other drivers, Jones said. He added that, due to the forecasted high temperatures this weekend, you should get your vehicle serviced and checked before departing on a trip.
If you see an impaired driver or have car trouble on the road, call the Highway Patrol at *HP (*47).
Teddy Kulmala covers the crime beat for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since August 2012. He is a native of Williston and majored in communication studies at Clemson University.