Just in case you hadn’t noticed, the spring and summer visitors our area relies upon are here once more. That means, among other things, it’s time to be a bit more patient behind the wheel.
Year-round residents of the Grand Strand have long known that the rules change slightly in peak tourism times. Eateries that are normally easy to find a table at suddenly have hour-long waits. Beaches that were peaceful and serene not too long ago are full of families and sunbathers. Stores, restaurants and attractions that went into hibernation for the winter rub the sleep from their eyes and turn the lights back on. And the traffic gets ugly, especially around peak hotel check-in and checkout times (Friday afternoon and Sunday morning).
It’s not so much the volume of traffic that’s worrying, though it’s frustrating enough to see commute times double or more during busy months. It’s the dangerous traffic that drivers should be paying attention to.
Don’t get us wrong. We love tourists. Bring ‘em on. They’re what keep our economy humming. But pack them into a compressed area they’ve never been to before, slowly creeping down streets looking for addresses or craning at the sights (“Is that a giant pyramid in the middle of the city?”) and the driving can get downright scary.
How much of a problem can it be? Visit the website of the South Carolina Highway Patrol and they have a whole page prominently promoted on how to be safe while driving to and from the beach. Among their common sense tips which can’t be repeated enough these days: don’t tailgate and don’t text and drive.
Statistics from the Myrtle Beach Police Department show that traffic accidents start increasing sharply around this time of year. From a fairly steady 200 or so accidents a month in the city October through February the number climbs to a peak of more than 600 a month in June and July. It’s not particularly surprising. After all, increase the number of drivers (especially drivers often unfamiliar with their surroundings) and it’s fairly easy to guess that traffic accidents will also increase. But it’s a good reminder for those of us who have just had six months of slightly less crowded streets to forget about the risk.
Yes, getting to your destination might take an extra few minutes this time of year. Plan ahead accordingly. Hang up the phone. Expect other drivers to be less predictable than normal this time of year. Don’t be the jerk weaving in and out of traffic and trying to push other cars to speed up. If so, you may very well also be the jerk stuck at the side of the road waiting for the police and a tow truck.
Be safe out there.