Originally created 08/17/99

Experiment could mean safer driving conditions



A new program, called Operation Drive FREE of Fear, means special teams of troopers will beef up patrols in Aiken County, working with other local law enforcement agencies to saturate areas known for higher numbers of crashes.

Aiken County was also one of four counties selected for added patrols by the State Transport Police to target commercial motor vehicle accidents.

State public safety officials will analyze whether the enforcement preventions are reducing crashes and might apply the efforts throughout South Carolina.

It is clear why Aiken County was selected: It ranks 10th overall in the number of traffic deaths during the past four years but only 38th in vehicle miles traveled and 33rd in population rates. In 1998, Aiken County ranked third in the total number of traffic deaths, with 50. Only Greenville and Spartanburg counties recorded more fatalities.

Attending the Columbia news conference along with local law enforcement officers was Aiken County Coroner Sue Townsend, who urged motorists to be more responsible.

"People have got to accept responsibility for their driving," she said. "Troopers can't be there for everybody all the time."

The coroner consistently has criticized the interstate speed limit increase and the state's secondary seat belt law that allows an officer to ticket an unrestrained motorist only after a traffic stop.

Greg Rickabaugh can be reached at (803) 279-6895 or scbureau@augustachronicle.com.