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Expect more officers on roads over Thanksgiving

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By Jesef Williams

Expect additional law officers on the road this week, all in an attempt to ensure more highway safety during the Thanksgiving holiday.

The official holiday period begins at 6 p.m. Wednesday and runs through Nov. 30.  

Lance Cpl. Jeff Gaskin of the S.C. Highway Patrol said the agency will be running several operations during the period, including radar speed detection and seat-belt- and speed-enforcement teams.

The Highway Patrol has a DUI saturation team, in which troopers from other counties will be in Lancaster County to target drunk driving.

The Highway Patrol will also conduct multiple checkpoints. They will focus on all roads, not just the ones with heavy traffic, Gaskin said.

However, U.S. 521 and S.C. 9 will be two of the roads that receive the most attention, as they’ve had some of the highest collision rates in the county, Gaskin said.

Last year, there were 23 collisions in Lancaster and Chesterfield counties during the Thanksgiving holiday. Four of those wrecks were alcohol-related, Gaskin said.

There were 10 fatal crashes in South Carolina that resulted in 11 deaths during the 2007 Thanksgiving period.

“Our goal is fatality reduction – making the highway safer,” Gaskin said. “One fatality is too many.”

The Highway Patrol reminds motorists to watch speed, refrain from aggressive driving and pay attention, as there will be more vehicles on the highway.

Mark Keel, director for the S.C. Department of Public Safety, believes lower gas prices will have a lot to do with that increased number.

“The past few holidays – when we normally see heavy travel – have definitely been lighter because of the impact of high gas prices,” Keel said. “People are overdue on making those long trips.”

Here are some of the Highway Patrol’s holiday travel tips:

– Make sure your cell phone is fully charged before you leave.

– Have your vehicle checked before you travel and bring along a first-aid kit, flashlight, flares, jumper cables and an ice scraper.

– Be patient. Don’t tail gate. Keep a safe following distance and don’t engage in aggressive or combative driving.

– Try to save restroom and stretching breaks for designated rest areas. If you must stop at a convenience store or other area, be especially careful of your surroundings.

– Do not leave purses, wallets or other belongings visible in your vehicle.

– Lock you vehicle when you are in it and out.

– Take the keys and lock your door while pumping gas.

– Never leave children in an unattended vehicle.

Contact reporter Jesef Williams at jwilliams@thelancasternews.com or at (803) 283-1152