It’s all hands on deck for the South Carolina Highway Patrol this holiday travel week. Troopers say they will not tolerate drivers who are texting behind the wheel.
“If we see you driving down the roadway, texting or sending an email, we’re going to stop you and potentially write you a ticket for it,” Lance Cpl. David Jones said.
“We’ve looked at the causation to a lot of crashes this year around South Carolina and often we see where distraction plays a big part in that,” he said. “We know that if we can get people to focus on the roadway, to put their smart devices down, or just simply limit their distractions in general, then we can reduce our crashes.”
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, texting while driving multiplies the chances of an individual being involved in a collision by 23 times.
Jones said 16 people died in crashes on South Carolina roads during last year’s Thanksgiving weekend, defined as the Wednesday before Thanksgiving until the Sunday after. The Highway Patrol says its mission is for the 2017 number to be zero.
“That’s 16 people that lost their life on a South Carolina roadway that doesn’t get to share Christmas or another holiday,” he said. “Our ultimate goal is to have this holiday period with zero fatalities.”
So far this year, total statewide deaths are running behind 2016 with 850 highway deaths year-to-date compared to 908 at this time last year.
“We want you to put your smart device down,” Jones said. “Concentrate on the roadway because this time of year we see more travelers than any other time of the year and it’s really, really important to make sure you’re focused on the roadway, you’re leaving proper following distance. You’re reducing your speed, wearing your seat belt.”
SCHP chose Thanksgiving week for the texting and driving enforcement because of the increase in traffic volume and the chance for distractions during long trips. Troopers will use unmarked patrol vehicles for the initiative and each vehicle will be staffed by two troopers — a driver and a primary spotter on the passenger side. The driver will patrol multi-lane highways, making it conducive to pull alongside vehicles to observe the actions of drivers. The primary spotter’s duty will be to detect drivers violating the Texting and Driving Law.
“Wednesday typically is the busiest travel day of the year so we’re going to have extra troopers in place. We teamed up with local law enforcement agencies and we’re going to be concentrating on getting motorists to their destinations safely.”
“We’re going to have all hands on deck. Every uniformed trooper in the state who ordinarily may work an administrative role is going to be out on our highways enforcing laws,” Jones said.
Jones encourages drivers to report crashes, stranded drivers, reckless driving, fatigued drivers or traffic hazards by calling *HP (*47) on their cell phones.