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Buckle up, slow down and don’t drink and drive.
That’s the warning from the S.C. Highway Patrol as they launch their latest Target Zero initiative, called Operation Fourth Quarter.
Launched Oct. 28, the initiative is an effort to cut down on DUI, seat belt and speeding infractions among motorists, according to a Highway Patrol press release.
S.C. Highway Patrol Col. Mike Oliver said the initiative gets its name from the final quarter of a football game.
“Football is a game but we are dealing with real life and death situations on our roadways,” Oliver said in the release. “The fourth quarter of the year is often the toughest for us when it comes to preventing highway deaths. We often come out of summer with encouraging highway safety trends, but begin seeing a shift around October and the time change. We are doing all we can to prevent that tragic turn this year.”
Oliver said some of the most common traffic violations causing collisions and deaths on highways are speed, inattention, drunk/impaired driving and failure to buckle up.
As part of the initiative, the Highway Patrol will conduct special enforcement efforts geared toward reducing collisions, injuries and deaths throughout November and December.
This includes increased trooper patrols of areas high in vehicle crashes, ranging from interstates to secondary roads.
Some of the first efforts were conducted Nov. 8 and 9 when troopers held driver safety checkpoints, nighttime safety belt enforcement and speed/DUI patrols.
SCHP Capt. B.J. Albert oversees Troop 4, which includes Cherokee, Chester, Chesterfield, Fairfield, Lancaster, Union and York counties.
Albert said the goal is to cut down on a recent rise in fatalities he’s seen in the area.
As of Nov. 3, 2013, there had already been 52 fatalities in Troop 4, compared to 44 during the same period last year, he said. Roads with the highest number of fatalities include state primary and secondary roads.
With Thanksgiving and Christmas quickly approaching and more motorists taking to highways, statistics have shown an increase in the numbers of impaired driving collisions, the release said.
“Fourth Quarter reminds motorists not to become complacent and let down their guard,” Albert said. “We need our motorists acting as team players with our troopers and officers to prevent death on the highways.”
According to the release, there was good news to report from the first six months of 2013, both nationally and statewide.
Preliminary traffic and collision data showed nationwide traffic fatalities had decreased by 4.2 percent, while South Carolina traffic fatalities decreased by 13.5 percent during the first six months of 2013, compared to the first six months of 2012.
In the report, the SCHP notes that fatalities historically rise during the last few months of a year. In 2012, this was the case, when fatalities declined during the summer and rose from October to December.
The SCHP statistics also showed there have been 632 fatalities in the state through Nov. 3 compared to 710 through the same time in 2012.
As for pedestrians, 74 were killed so far this year compared to 100 last year, while motorcycle deaths are ahead of last year at 108 compared to 103 in 2012, the release said.
The Highway Patrol noted that out of 415 fatalities involving motor vehicle occupants in 2013, only 158 were wearing safety belts.
Counties with the highest fatalities in the state include Greenville, Richland, Horry, Charleston and Lexington.
Contact reporter Chris Sardelli at (803) 416-8416