AIKEN - The South Carolina Highway Patrol has decided Aiken County drivers just aren't getting the message.
With five days left in a month in which seven people have died on county roads, the patrol says its four extra deputies will stay until the end of November.
The four extra deputies, two on motorcycles, were assigned to the county Oct. 1 after the patrol said it was worried about the high number of deaths on county roads. The additions joined the six who regularly patrol the county.
According to highway patrol data, Aiken County is tied for first with Florence County in the number of highway fatalities in October. Lexington County comes in second with four deaths so far this month.
Fatalities in Aiken and Florence counties make up 24 percent of the state's 59 deaths this month.
During September, four people died on Aiken County roads. So far this year, 41 people have died on Aiken County roads. Twenty-four died on them last year.
Since Oct. 1, the highway patrol has worked 176 accident scenes. That number does not include accidents worked by other law enforcement agencies in the county, said Lance Cpl. R.K. Hughes of the highway patrol.
"People just aren't slowing down," he said.
The Aiken County Sheriff's Office has loaned members of its DUI Task Force to help the troopers this month, Lance Cpl. Hughes said.
The 10 highway patrol troopers and the sheriff's deputies have written just over 2,000 tickets so far this month for such driving don'ts as driving under the influence, wearing no seat belt and speeding, Lance Cpl. Hughes said.
Aiken County Coroner Sue Townsend said the patrol's decision to stay is a comfort.
"I would take anything from anybody to help turn these terrible statistics around," she said. "People need to understand it is dangerous to drive in Aiken."
Reach Matthew Boedy at (803) 648-1395 or firstname.lastname@example.org.