The S.C. Highway Patrol will kick patrols and enforcement into high gear for the last two months of the year, during which traffic fatalities typically increase.
Target Zero: Operation Fourth Quarter began Oct. 28 and will include specialized enforcement efforts geared toward reducing collisions, injuries and deaths throughout November and December. The Highway Patrol has implemented the enforcement and education effort in years past but decided to operate it under the theme of football this year.
“In football, the fourth quarter – you want to give it your best effort and finish the game strong,” said Lance Cpl. Judd Jones. “Our numbers are down, and we want them to stay down.”
Traffic fatalities have dropped nationwide, and dropped statewide in South Carolina for the first six months of 2013, according to the Highway Patrol.
There have been 632 fatalities through Nov. 3, compared to 710 last year. Also, there have been 74 pedestrians killed this year compared to 100 last year.
In Aiken County, there have been 23 traffic fatalities resulting from 20 crashes as of Friday, according to Jones. At this point last year, there had been 17 fatalities.
Historically, the state has seen fatalities increase in the final few months of the year. After a decline in fatalities over the summer last year, the number rose steadily from October through December, giving the state a 4.2 percent increase in fatalities over 2011, according to the Highway Patrol.
The leading traffic violations causing collisions and fatalities on the highway are speed, inattentive driving, drunken and impaired driving and failure to buckle up. Driver safety checkpoints, nighttime safety belt enforcement and speeding and DUI saturations will be conducted during the evenings this weekend.
In Troop 7, which includes Aiken and six other counties, the number of DUI-related crashes has increased this year, according to Capt. A.K. Rice.
S.C. 125 in Aiken County is one of several roadways that continue to cause concern for authorities.
“It's one of the roads where we've seen an increase in not necessarily fatalities but traffic collisions,” Jones said. “That's one of the ones we want to concentrate on.”
The Highway Patrol wants to remind motorists that while fatalities have decreased compared to this time last year, the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday is one of the busiest travel holidays of the year, with Christmas and New Year's celebrations continuing through December and historically driving up the number of impaired-driving collisions.
If you have car trouble on the road or wish to report an impaired drier, call the Highway Patrol by dialing *HP (*47).
Teddy Kulmala covers the crime and courts 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.