South Carolina State Patrol to Focus on Rural Highways - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

06/22/05

South Carolina State Patrol to Focus on Rural Highways

Alternate 170 in Levy, SC. Alternate 170 in Levy, SC.

We drive in a pretty dangerous place. In fact, South Carolina's one of the worst in the nation for speed-related deaths. And the state is trying to find ways to make the roads safer. But they're not just focusing on big highways and interstates.

By January, the state patrol hopes to add 100 new patrol officers, and one of their primary concerns is going to be rural roads. The two-lane highways crisscrossing South Carolina have been the deadliest in the last few years.

More than a month later, police tape, stray car parts and latex gloves still mark the spot on Alternate 170 of one of Jasper County's worst wrecks. Unfortunately, two small clusters of crosses mark that spot as well--six in all.

"We've had two really bad accidents on this road probably within two miles of each other," said Kim Ratliff, who works at the El Cheapo station in Levy. "Actually, three, because we had one right here at the station about a year ago."

The state patrol says roads like Alternate 170 in Jasper County are getting to be some of the biggest problems in the entire state. That's why they're trying to focus their energy on these.

The emergency crews that clean up after bad wrecks say they're hoping more troopers means fewer accidents.

"I can't say I'm not guilty myself of seeing a patrol officer and quickly buckling my seatbelt or something of the like," said Mike Hodges of emergency services. "And I think just pure visibility will go a long way."

But at the same time, emergency crews sadly acknowledge that no matter how many patrol cars there are out there, it's up to the drivers to be more careful after they get past the troopers. Something that's not likely to change any time soon.

"When they round the corner, they go on again, so if you get on these roads and you drive the speed limit, somebody's going to pass you," said Doug Graham of the Levy Fire Department.

The federal report that's fueling a lot of this renewed effort in rural areas says at least one person was speeding in almost half of the fatal accidents in South Carolina from the last 20 years.

Reported by: Chris Cowperthwaite, ccowperthwaite@wtoc.com

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