Patrol to be out in force this holiday

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By Johnathan Ryan

The S.C. Highway Patrol has a friendly warning for motorists: They'll be closely watched over the Thanksgiving holidays.

The Highway Patrol is preparing for heavy travel by calling out additional manpower resources.

All Highway Patrol personnel in the state, from Highway Patrol Col. Russell Roark on down, will be patrolling during the holiday period, which starts at 6 p.m. today and runs through midnight Sunday.

"We'll be bringing in extra manpower," said Sgt. Mike Burgess, who is temporarily supervising patrols in Lancaster and Chesterfield counties. "We'll have as many troopers on the roads as possible. Supervisors will be patrolling, too."

There were nine fatalities on South Carolina roadways during the Thanksgiving holiday period in 2006, one less than there was in 2005. Seven of the nine fatalities happened on U.S., state or secondary roads.

Troopers in Lancaster County will conduct driver's license and drunk-driving checkpoints on secondary roads outside the Lancaster city limits, Burgess said. There also will be a concerted effort to identify and stop vehicles in which occupants aren't wearing seat belts, he said.

Throughout the holiday season, the Highway Patrol encourages motorists to keep a safe following distance since traffic slowdown and congestion are likely. Motorists should report suspected drunk drivers to local law enforcement or by calling *HP on their cell phones.

Law enforcement statewide will be increasing patrols in areas around malls and shopping outlets, since troopers report an increase in aggressive driving, especially on the Friday after Thanksgiving – the year's biggest shopping holiday.

Burgess said patrol in Lancaster County won't focus as much on shopping areas, as most are in Lancaster city limits, which is left to the Lancaster Police Department.

Lancaster Police Chief Hugh White said extra city officers will be out Friday because so many people will be out shopping.

People can prepare for long holiday drives with a few small actions, such as getting enough sleep, starting out with enough travel time and wearing seat belts, Burgess said.

Inattention, speed and aggressive driving continue to account for the majority of the serious collisions and fatalities during the holiday travel periods, according to the Highway Patrol. Aggressive driving and inattention are often worse during the holidays because of the extended hours on the road, according to the patrol.

"We want people to understand that the extra congestion during Thanksgiving and the increase in drinking and driving drive up the chances for motorists being involved in collisions," said Max Young, director of the S.C. Department of Public Safety's Office of Highway Safety. "Their best defense in a collision is their safety belt."

Contact Johnathan Ryan

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