On NASCAR’s superspeedways, officials need a caution flag to slow things down.
On the unofficial speedway also known as Interstate 526, the authorities need intensified law enforcement to slow things down.
Thus, last Friday, the North Charleston and Charleston police departments and the Charleston County Sheriff’s Department teamed up to write 216 tickets — mostly for speeding.
Some of those lead foots caught in the dangerous act are predictably annoyed that they are being punished for what they — and others — have done so often without penalty.
As anyone who regularly drives on I-526, I-26 or just about any other major highway can tell you, speeding is the norm, not the exception.
But the only way the police can change that speeding habit on I-526, where it’s evidently contagious, is to impose a high price on those who perpetuate it.
North Charleston Police Maj. K. Coyle Kinard told our reporter: “Periodically, we will do radar operations to have people slow down. It’s not just going to be today. It will be steady enforcement on the Mark Clark.”
That “steady enforcement” was visible again Wednesday near the intersection of I-526 and I-26.
But if you think you can outwit those enforcers, think again:
During last Friday’s mission, the officers worked in teams, with some of them performing the pulling duty from unmarked cars.
As for the temptation to drive faster so you can get there sooner, do the math:
Driving at an average 60 miles per hour across the roughly 20-mile length of I-526 from where it starts in Mount Pleasant to where it ends (for now) in West Ashley takes 20 minutes. Driving that same stretch at 75 mph takes 16 minutes.
Is risking a steep speeding fine and a higher insurance rate really worth that extra four minutes?
Is risking a far worse outcome — a potentially fatal accident — worth it?
Yes, a few rural municipalities in our state use “speed traps” that seem aimed more at revenue generation than safety enhancement.
But when cars regularly go 75, 80 and even faster on a road as busy — and as heavy with tractor-trailer truck traffic — as I-526, that Mark Clark Expressway can become a death trap of sorts.
Meanwhile, even speed traps won’t catch you if you drive at or below the legal limit.
So speeders, slow down on I-526 (and every other route you take) to increase the chances that you, and the folks sharing the road with you, will reach your destinations alive and well.
And if you don’t slow down, prepare to pay up.