State troopers and county deputies have begun what they described as an “aggressive” crackdown on speeding and other driving violations in the deadly stretch of Interstate 26 between Jedburg and Harleyville.
In a press conference Monday morning, state troopers said they would dedicate four troopers in unmarked cars to this area until speeds and accidents decline.
Troopers on motorcycles and deputies from the Dorchester and Berkeley county sheriffs offices will assist this new team, said Capt. Chris Williamson, head of the state Highway Patrol in the Charleston region.
“We’re not out here to pick on people,” he said. “It’s not a ticket-writing mission. But we are going to be aggressive.”
The special I-26 effort is part of a larger effort to reduce deaths and collisions between Jedburg and I-95.
Transportation Department engineers also are studying whether to install new lights, reflective “high-crash corridor” signs and “rumble strips” – rough patches of pavement designed to wake up dozing drivers on certain stretches,
“Our overall goal is to save people’s lives,” Williamson said.
The crackdown comes in the wake of a Post and Courier Watchdog analysis earlier this year that identified “death zones” around Ridgeville and Harleyville that had fatality rates three times higher than other stretches of I-26.
During the press conference Monday, state troopers presented new data showing that 25 people died between 2007 and the end of 2009 between mile markers 194 in Jedburg and 172 near Harleyville. All 25 involved wrecks in which a single car ran off the road, often because a driver was speeding, over-corrected, wasn’t paying attention or fell asleep at the wheel.
“In our minds, we feel that most of these collisions can be prevented,” Williamson said.
He said his command grew concerned about the rising number of collisions on this stretch. The new enforcement team will focus on times when more accidents tend to happen – Thursday through the weekend – and will operate until there are measurable declines in the numbers of accidents and average speeds.