While most people gather for family dinners, flock to shopping malls and tune in to football games over this long holiday weekend, the S.C. Highway Patrol plans to put its entire staff to work.
"Every trooper throughout the area, including those who normally run the office administrative staff, are out on roadways," said Highway Patrol Capt. Chris Williamson. This week kicks off the heaviest travel time of the year, he said, and troopers plan to step up enforcement with check points.
Williamson said efforts will focus on two problems: DUIs and drivers and passengers not wearing seat belts.
So far this year, 734 people have died on South Carolina's roadways, five more compared to this time last year. Williamson said 253 of them were not wearing seat belts and that, historically, about half of all fatal accidents in South Carolina involve drinking and driving.
"We're going to be targeting the main things taking people's lives," he said.
He added that pedestrian deaths have climbed 23 percent so far this year, and that motorcycle deaths are up 16 percent so far statewide. Williamson said troopers will encourage people walking along roadways to wear reflective clothing and to stay on the shoulder of the road facing traffic.
"As law enforcement officers, it's not about writing tickets," he said. "It's about educating the public as well. We want them to have fun. We want them to enjoy their families and football games. If they drink, they need to have a designated driver. Don't let the fun turn into tragedy by taking their lives or someone else's."
Reach Allyson Bird at 937-5594.