People who arrive in South Carolina from Georgia on I-95 are greeted by a large overhead sign: "Buckle up. It's the law." Grrr.

Then there's a billboard: "Our state is not an ashtray." Grrr again.

And then there's the welcome center that, sadly, compares very poorly to Georgia's landscaped, updated and, well, welcoming welcome center for people heading south.

It falls far short of the attractions that hosts inside the center try to promote when they assist visitors.

The Department of Transportation, which had overseen that center and the eight others around the state, is no longer involved. As of July 1, responsibilities - and $3.2 million - were transferred to the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism.

Happily, PRT plans to improve the centers' landscaping and facilities, beginning with the welcome center at Landrum on I-26 at the North Carolina border. Plans are incomplete, but one concept is to give the center a coffe-shop feel and to make it easy for guests to recharge their phones.

The centers already are staffed by people who are certified to tell visitors about S.C. history, geography, attractions and lodging - appealing assets, indeed.

South Carolina offers much to visitors, and it isn't all in Charleston and Myrtle Beach. Tourists who visit a welcome center might learn about other destinations and activities, and spreading the wealth where tourism is concerned would benefit the entire state.

Unfortunately, an out-of-date, unattractive welcome center might do the opposite. People could reasonably conclude that the welcome center mirrors the state. (The sad condition of some of the roads and highways they're about to travel only exacerbates that perception.)

A major redo of the state's welcome centers is the right move both for visitors and for the state.

And maybe it will give the DOT more time to work on those highways.