Operation Southern Shield is on South Carolina’s roads this week. It’s a multi-state attempt to target drivers who speed and drive in an unsafe manner.
Lcpl. David Jones with the South Carolina Highway Patrol said there were more than 45,000 speed-related crashes in South Carolina in 2017 and speed was the factor in 38 percent of traffic deaths last year.
“Speed plays a big factor in our fatalities,” he said.
So law enforcement officers in South Carolina, Florida, Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee are teaming up this week target unsafe driving habits. Jones said in the program’s first year in 2017, there was a reduction in crashes and traffic deaths during the week of enforcement. During the 2017 week of enforcement 16 people died on South Carolina roads, compared to 21 during the same week in 2016. There was also a reduction in speed-related fatalities, from nine to six, during the same period.
“Not only are we looking for motorists who may speed, but also people who have made the poor decision to get behind the wheel of a car if they’ve consumed alcohol or taken drugs, or motorists who are driving distracted, and lastly, motorists who’ve made that poor decision not to buckle up,” Jones said.
The enforcement falls during what the South Carolina Department of Public Safety calls the 100 Deadly Days of Summer when there is more traffic from people on vacation. The campaign focuses on the heavy summer travel period when the rate of fatal and injury crashes within the Southeastern United States is higher than any other time of the year.
“If we can get people before they depart to go on that trip, to slow down, reduce their speed, buckle up, get a designated driver, then we’ve done our part effectively and that way it falls back on the motorist,” he said. “We want the motorists to do the right thing and we’re going to have resources available to do that.”
Jones countered the argument he hears often from people who he pulls over for not wearing seat belts who say they’re not hurting anyone else by not wearing them.
“I can tell you as a trooper who has knocked on many doors and met weeping families and that wife that falls to her knees or a husband or a father who falls into your arms, I know the effects of these poor driving behaviors, so we take it personal when a life is lost,” he said.
“So if you don’t do it for anybody else do it for the person that you care about the most. Make sure you wear your seat belt, reduce your speed. If you go out and celebrate, if you can’t afford a taxi, call me. I’ll pay for a taxi for you. But don’t make that poor decision to get behind the wheel of a car because all too often we see where that poor decision leads to a lot of traffic fatalities in South Carolina.”