NEWBERRY —Expect to see more police on the roads starting Monday with the Newberry Police Department, Newberry County Sheriff Office and S.C. Highway Patrol.
The South Carolina Highway Patrol, along with local law enforcement agencies, will continue its blitz in the Troop Two area of the state – this time in Newberry County where traffic fatalities have increased 125 percent compared to the same period last year. There have been nine fatalities so far this year in Newberry County, compared to four in 2011.
The city of Newberry has also suffered two vehicle fatalities this year when they normally have none.
A big factor in fatalities have been with motorists not wearing seat belts.
The blitz will include patrols on Monday, Tuesday and Halloween as officers look for aggressive, drunk and speeding drivers.
Another concern of law enforcement will be drivers who are texting while on the road.
While texting and driving is not against the law Newberry Police Chief Jackie Swindler says it is no different than a person driving under the influence. He explains the texting driver is still all over the road and is dangerous.
The blitz will focus on violations that are problematic in Newberry County including reckless and distracted driving, impaired driving, seat belt violations, speed and defective equipment.
S.C. Highway Patrol Captain D.W. Yongue said that 33 percent of the fatalities in Newberry County were alcohol-related (six percent increase from last year) and 25 percent were attributed to defective equipment (i.e. defective tires). Sixty-three percent of the fatality victims were not wearing a seat belt.
The highest rate of people not wearing seat belts are those under 25, said Yongue.
“People are doing a good job but we are still seeing young people not wearing seat belts,” said Swindler, adding his officers are writing a number of tickets for unrestrained motorist.
In the city in one wreck, the occupant was not wearing a seat belt and the other was a motorcycle.
“Two of the leading killers on our highways are distracted driving and not wearing a seat belt,” said Yongue. “There are two proven lifesavers in your vehicle: seat belts and your undivided attention to the road. We need the public’s help in driving responsibly and reporting suspected drunk drivers.”
Swindler also reminds people to leave several car lengths between them and other vehicles because often secondary wrecks are worse that the first one.
Newberry County Sheriff’s Major Todd Johnson says that more young peoples lives are being stanched away due to wrecks.
“This is a life changing event and the families have milestones to have to deal with. At least do this for those you love you and want you to be around,” said Johnson, who is trained in educating young people through Alive at 25 and is also a pastor.
Similar to the recent blitz in Laurens County, motorists can expect to see public safety checkpoints, motorcycle units and other special enforcement efforts in areas around the county.
Swindler said, “Our intentions are to make people aware of the violations that are contributing to fatalities in Newberry city and county. Our agency is eager to assist the other agencies involved in this enforcement effort to promote highway safety and make the roads safer in Newberry County.”
With the holiday seasons approaching, the three enforcement agencies are stressing to motorists the importance of highway safety and precautions to take while traveling.
“The impact of those who are severely injured or killed in automobile accidents goes far beyond that person,” said Newberry County Sheriff Lee Foster. “Parents, children, family and loved ones are left to deal with a loss from which they will never fully recover.
“This is why we are so passionate about working with other law enforcement agencies to make our highways safe,” Foster said. “Even if you get angry with us because you get a ticket or got arrested, at least you are alive to be angry with us.”
Swindler says that the checks are not the police trying to be mean but they are working to save lives.
The group will be highly visible, and will continue increased efforts and partner together through the rest of the year.
“We are not going away,” said Swindler.
Also expect to see other than normal vehicles such as motorcycles being used by law enforcement during the blitz. If you are being stopped by an unusual vehicle call 911 to verify that it is a police officer.
The Highway Patrol has also recently held a special enforcement effort in Laurens County and will be focusing on Greenwood County next.