Patrols increasing on busy SC interstate

Safety patrols increase on busy SC Interstate 26
BRUCE SMITH,Associated Press Writer



NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C.  — You can call it a South Carolina blue light special as the Highway Patrol and other agencies step up traffic enforcement along Interstate 26 between Charleston and Columbia.

Highway Patrol Capt. C.N. Williamson of the patrol's North Charleston-based troop announced today a special four-person patrol unit is being formed to focus on a particularly deadly 22-mile stretch of the interstate between Charleston and Interstate 95.

Twenty-six people have died along that section of the highway since the start of 2007, many in one-vehicle accidents. Ten of the fatalities occurred last year.

An investigation by The Post and Courier of Charleston earlier this year found sections of the rural interstate near Harleyville had fatality rates three times higher than other stretches of I-26.

Interstate 26 runs from Charleston, northwest past Columbia and Spartanburg, and on into North Carolina. It is the only interstate link inland from Charleston.

Williamson said the new enforcement effort is using unmarked Chevy Impalas with antenna radar that works while the vehicle is moving. He also said there has been discussion of placing rumble strips every five miles in the high-fatality area as well as putting in lighting.

Williamson said officers would target speeding, distracted driving, changing lanes illegally, tailgating and drunken driving on the busy interstate.

"It's not our idea to just want to pick on people. We definitely want to send that message," he said. "This is not a ticket-writing mission. But we are going to be aggressive in enforcing those violations that take peoples' lives."

He said the crackdown that started Monday will continue indefinitely. Other troops farther up the interstate are also targeting reckless driving, he said.

"We all have the same focus in mind and will conduct the same strenuous enforcement efforts on I-26," he said. "That's the message we want to send. For our public to be aware and be alert on I-26 between here and Columbia."

Williamson said the enforcement will concentrate on Thursday nights through the end of weekends, the busiest time on the interstate between Charleston and Columbia.



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