Motor vehicle injuries are the leading cause of death among people younger than 35 nationwide, with South Carolina vying with Louisiana and Montana for the worst fatal-wreck rate in the country.
That's one reason Mount Pleasant police aggressively enforce traffic laws, said Harry Sewell, the department's chief. "The whole goal is to get the motoring public to follow traffic laws so we have safer streets."
In 2009, Mount Pleasant's Municipal Court handled more than 7,000 speeding and careless driving cases, according to a corrected Watchdog analysis of the court's operations.
Because of a reporter's error, Watchdog earlier this month reported that the court handed 1,463 cases in 2009. In fact, that total was only for January 2009. For the entire year, the court handled nearly 16,000 cases. More than half involved traffic-related cases.
Of the 5,582 speeding tickets handled by the court, for instance, 5,090 were made for going less than 10 mph over the limit, records show. These numbers, however, don't show that many motorists likely were driving more than 10 mph over the limit, Sewell said. "A lot of times we'll give someone a break on the street." He said that officers typically write the actual speed recorded on the back of the ticket.
The court also handled nearly 1,600 careless driving charges and 297 driving under the influence cases. More than 2,200 seat belt violations went through the court, violations that Sewell said are part of a statewide effort to encourage people to buckle up. "It saves lives."
Mount Pleasant police typically look for speeders in areas that have a history of wrecks, Sewell said, adding that the department also will station officers in areas where residents complain about high speeds.
Unlike Beaufort, Conway and an increasing number of towns and cities in South Carolina, Mount Pleasant, North Charleston and Charleston don't have searchable online databases for their municipal courts, making it difficult for people to do background checks and track court trends.
Mount Pleasant and North Charleston supplied electronic data on municipal court cases to Watchdog in response to requests under the South Carolina Freedom of Information Act. The city of Charleston, meanwhile, posted information on its website about municipal court cases handled during the past three years, the first time the city has done so.
Reach Tony Bartelme at 937-5554 or email@example.com.