MYRTLE BEACH — As school children in Horry and Georgetown counties are packing their backpacks and readying for the first day of school, area police said they are planning increased patrols and safety checkpoints to monitor the amplified traffic.
Horry County Schools open their doors for the first day of classes on Thursday, while Coastal Carolina University students return to class on Monday and Georgetown County and Horry-Georgetown Technical College students return on Wednesday.
Area police will increase their enforcement of traffic violations as school children return to the roads in buses, congestion grows in school zones and congestion is expected with the rush of Labor Day visitors before the end of summer, said Cpl. Sonny Collins with the S.C. Highway Patrol.
“There will be increased traffic and commutes are going to take a little longer now that school is back in,” Collins said. “School buses will be running and children will be standing on the side of the road, so pay close attention especially in the rural areas. We will be in those school zones with enforcement of the speed limits and other things with the kids being back in there.”
Troopers are poised to rotate their patrols through schools zones throughout the county for the rest of the school year for enforcement, Collins said.
Patrols also will increase in a week for the annual Labor Day holiday weekend.
“With the end of the summer, especially Labor Day being the last official weekend of summer, we will have increased trooper presence especially along the beach routes and that will include random road checks,” Collins said. “We have increased DUI arrests during nontraditional times. We’re seeing them during the weekend, during the afternoons, daytime and mornings. There’s no set time for an impaired driver to be out there, so we’re going to randomize those road checks to be out there.”
Officials across the state last week kicked off the annual “Sober or Slammer” campaign that targets impaired drivers during holiday weekends.
“From 2007-2011, we experienced a 32 percent reduction in alcohol-impaired fatalities – from 464 to 315,” said Leroy Smith, director of the S.C. Department of Public Safety. “Achieving this takes all of us working together in terms of enforcement, education, communications, financial resources, information technology and human resources. Impaired driving remains one of the greatest challenges we face in the law enforcement community.”
As of Wednesday, there were 164 highway deaths since Memorial Day weekend during the 100 deadly days of summer, officials said. During the same period in 2012, there were 176 such deaths.
Overall this year the number of people killed on state roads has decreased as compared to the same time as last year. This year there have been 432 compared to 516 last year as of Wednesday.
Troopers are focusing on DUI-related violations to curb deaths and crashes, Collins said.
In Horry County, through Wednesday there had been 233 DUI-related crashes and 753 DUI tickets issued, compared to the same time last year there were 213 crashes and 775 tickets, Collins said.
Last year, officers in South Carolina, including troopers, made more than 27,000 DUI arrests, according to state officials.
“We want motorists to understand that if they drink and drive, the threat of getting caught is very real,” said Col. Mike Oliver, commander of the S.C. Highway Patrol. “That’s why we will saturate the state with enforcement as well as visual reminders of the consequences of getting behind the wheel after drinking.”
Contact TONYA ROOT at 444-1723 or follow her at Twitter.com/tonyaroot.