S.C. authorities hope new operation stems late year traffic fatalities



In recent years, South Carolina has seen the number of traffic fatalities increase at the end of the year. This year, authorities are attempting to cut down on those numbers with Target Zero: Operation Fourth Quarter.

“The fourth quarter of the year is often the toughest for us when it comes to preventing highway deaths,” said South Carolina Highway Patrol Col. Mike Oliver. “We often come out of summer with encouraging highway safety trends but begin seeing a shift around October and the time change. We are doing all we can to prevent that tragic turn this year.”

The operation officially began Oct. 28 but will continue until year’s end.

The highway patrol has already planned to set up driver safety checkpoints, night time safety belt enforcement and speed and DUI saturations Friday and Saturday.

Police will focus on areas that have had the most traffic fatalities, which range from interstates to secondary roads.

Although Aiken County is not among the top five counties in fatalities, it does have one road – SC Highway 125 – that continues to cause concern.

Capt. A.K. Grice said that the Troop 7 area, which includes Aiken and six other counties, has seen a rise in DUI crashes. There have been 70 fatalities in that area this year.

Recent studies showed that traffic fatalities have dropped both nationwide and in South Carolina, which saw a 13.5 percent decrease in the first six months of 2013.

Historically, those numbers can rise in the final few months of the year. In 2012, fatalities rose steadily from October to December, resulting in an overall increase of 4.2 percent from the previous year.

In addition to Thanksgiving and Christmas being the two busiest holidays for travel, the latter portion of the year sees an increase in crashes from holiday celebrations and drinking. Some also attribute the increase to the time change.

“Fourth quarter reminds motorists not to become complacent and let down their guard,” Grice said. “We need our motorists acting as team players with our troopers and officers to prevent death on the highways.”