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Law officers to be out in force over July 4 holiday

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By The Staff

Law enforcement is gearing up for July 4 and planning to be on the lookout for impaired drivers and speeding violations, especially in and around local summer hot spots, beaches and mountain areas.

The S.C. Department of Public Safety is preparing for motorists to begin travel on Thursday.

"Since July 4 falls on a Friday, we believe many people will decide to take off work Thursday, making it a long weekend,"Department of Public Safety Director Mark Keel said. "Even with gas prices higher during this year's travel period, we believe there will still be substantial traffic with people heading to attractions within the state."

The official July 4 travel period begins at 6 p.m. Thursday and ends at midnight Monday – a 78-hour period. Last year, four people were killed during the 30-hour holiday travel period.

The Highway Patrol, a division of S.C. Department of Public Safety, and local law enforcement partners began their heightened enforcement efforts last week to cover the holiday from weekend to weekend.

Motorists should be aware that the Highway Patrol and local law enforcement will be conducting more enforcement activity than normal. This includes a saturation of troopers on high-fatality or -collision roadways and public safety checkpoints. They will be using LIDAR, a handheld radar, as well as stationary radar. Motorcycle units and unmarked patrol cars will be used, too.

Troop Four, which includes Cherokee, Chester, Chesterfield, Fairfield, Lancaster, Union and York counties, has seen an increase in fatalities this year (53 compared to 46 last year). Speed is the most common issue leading to fatalities in this area, followed by driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Some of the special enforcement in this area during the July 4 weekend will include a multi-jurisdictional checkpoint on S.C. 151.

Radar enforcement will be used on Interstate 85, U.S. 521, S.C. 9 and S.C. 151. Line patrols will be used on U.S. 21 and Interstate 77.

DUI saturation patrols will be used in the Lake Wateree and Great Falls areas.

With the assistance of S.C. Department of Natural Resources, public safety checkpoints will be used on river access roads to prevent DUI-related collisions.

The Highway Patrol will be distributing safety information to bait and tackle shops, boat landings and other recreational areas.

"Our primary focus during this time will be preventing DUI and speed-related collisions that tend to rise during the summer travel season," Troop Four Commander Capt. Mark Wright said. "We will work with SCDNR and local law enforcement to be especially vigilant around waterways."

The Highway Patrol shows that historically the time between noon and 9 p.m. tends to yield the most fatal collisions.

SCDPS will continue its enforcement and education partnership with S.C. Department of Natural Resources. The two agencies routinely coordinate efforts around waterways during summer holidays, tackling DUI and speeding on water and surrounding roadways.

The two agencies have also released a public service announcement alerting motorists about the combined enforcement.

When making a traffic stop, motorists can expect law enforcement to activate their blue lights. Troopers must be in full uniform, with their campaign hats.

Motorists should slow down, indicate their intent to stop and pull off the roadway in a safe location, out of traffic. Motorists should stay in their vehicles. The trooper or officer will approach the vehicle and ask to see their license, registration and vehicle insurance.

The Highway Patrol also encourages motorists to ensure their vehicles are properly maintained. Before traveling, ensure fluid levels, especially coolant, are adequate, tires are properly inflated and the tread is good.

If motorists break down, they should stay in their vehicles, pull as far off the roadway as possible, activate their emergency lights and call *HP or their local sheriff's office. Motorists are strongly discouraged from walking on any roadways for emergency assistance, especially interstates.