South Congaree, SC (Paul Kirby) – Lance Corporal David Jones of the SCHP said Wednesday on the Good Morning Lexington County program that the commanders of the SCHP have committed to making a difference in the number of traffic deaths in Lexington County after seeing an increase of more than 20 traffic fatalities in 2018 over the 2017 numbers. Jones said that most of our deaths happen on secondary roads and not on the interstates, so that’s where the focus of their increased patrols will be.
Jones said that there are a number of factors that they have identified as playing a part in the increased accidents that end in death. One major one is still the lack of seatbelt use. He said it only takes a moment to put a seatbelt on and it is a proven fact that they give you a much better chance of surviving in a crash. “We’ve heard every excuse from personal freedom to I’m just going right down the road, or it’s only going to hurt me if I’m injured or killed,” Jones said. “The truth is, every trooper has seen many wrecks where the driver would have survived if they had just had a seatbelt on. We’ve also seen the family and friends of the deceased driver gathered and mourning after a loved one is gone.” Jones said most deadly wrecks happen just a few miles from a person’s home. That’s a key reason to wear a seatbelt all the time, even on short trips.
Jones also said we still have too many accidents as a result of driving under the influence of something. “Even a few drinks can delay your reaction time and if you add that to something you’re taking for back pain, something you’ve been prescribed for anxiety or a pulled muscle, suddenly you are much more impaired than you know.” He said it’s just so easy to have someone come get you, to call an Uber or other ride share, or even a wrecker service that will tow your vehicle and give you a ride home for one low price. Jones recounted the death of a local high school student that died in a wreck he witnessed near his home one morning. “The man who hit and killed that boy wasn’t drinking. He’d taken a number of pills that seriously diminished his ability to operate a vehicle. That man is now serving time in prison for that boy’s death, but nothing will ever bring him back.”
Distracted driving is also becoming more and more of a problem. As smart-phones and other devices take over our lives, texting and driving, talking on the phone and driving, changing your music, all take away from our ability to operate a vehicle safely. Jones said it’s best to put your device out of reach when you get in the car so you won’t be tempted to check it while you drive. “Distracted driving is quickly gaining on driving under the influence as a major cause of wrecks and fatalities. If it weren’t so hard to prove that was the cause of a crash, it might already have overtaken DUI as the leading cause of wrecks.”
Jones says you can expect to see more troopers in Lexington County than you’ve ever seen before. “We’ll be focusing on the secondary roads and will be strictly enforcing all traffic laws including speeding and other infractions some may consider minor.” He also said they are bringing troopers from other areas on motorcycles that can move in and out of traffic faster. “You’ll be seeing more of those mounted officers and they will be strictly enforcing traffic laws.”
In 2019, there have already been an average number of traffic deaths in Lexington County. Several have been pedestrians struck by vehicles that have died. According to Jones, that’s unusual for the winter months. He’s says he’s always concerned when we get closer to spring and people get their motorcycles out. As riders start filling our roads, people in cars often don’t seem to watch for the motorcyclist closely.
In closing, Jones said, “As always, our target for traffic deaths is zero. We’d love to have a checkpoint where we catch no one because all drivers are doing exactly what they're supposed to do. For our troopers, that would be a perfect day.”