The Highway Patrol’s aggressive enforcement of a deadly 22-mile stretch between Jedburg and Interstate 95 has begun.

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.

S.C. Highway Patrol Lance Cpl. J.L. Davis is one of four troopers driving unmarked patrol cars along the stretch of highway at any given time, particularly on weekends when the wrecks seem to happen most often.

There was some talk leading up to the crackdown about how troopers would have little tolerance for speeding, but the patrol says they are leaving it up to the troopers’ discretion. Davis chooses to be on the forgiving side. He gave a GMC pickup driver a ticket for going 79 mph instead of the 82 mph he clocked him at. He also gave him a written warning for the improper lane changes.

“I’m trying to make people be aware but I’m also trying to use a firm hand while doing it,” Davis said.

There was definitely a lack of awareness in the death zone Friday. Over and over, cars sped right by the unmarked Impala, oblivious to the lights in the back window and the radar on the front window.

“I just really believe people get so distracted that they’re not paying attention,” Davis said. “If you’re paying attention you would be able to realize I am in a law enforcement vehicle.”

Almost on cue, a black Chevrolet Cobalt passed the Impala at 83 mph and then — as if suddenly noticing the uniformed trooper in the driver’s seat — slowed down.

“Too late, buddy,” Davis said, hitting the blue lights.

The Highway Patrol released 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.

Read more in Saturday's editions of The Post and Courier.