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S.C. county aims to improve road safety

A high-profile campaign bolstered by extra squad cars and deputies aimed at stopping risky driving is apparently working in one South Carolina locale.

Police in Kershaw County, South Carolina were granted the funds to pursue dangerous drivers and have begun issuing more traffic citations and arresting more drivers on DUI charges.The local sheriff said his department has seen fewer fatalities on the road as a result.

Since moving into his role in January 2011, the sheriff has emphasized the need to decrease fatalities and minimize accidents. In mid-2011, the County Council bolstered his efforts and granted his department $360,000 to buy four patrol cars with video cameras and radar and hire four deputies with special training in highway pursuit.

He said that while sheriffs in the past have been reluctant to order deputies to make traffic stops in fear of losing votes, he has ordered his 24 road deputies to stop traffic offenders. He said that since more people die in traffic accidents than as a result of crimes, it's part of his duties to vigorously patrol the roads.

Another benefit of the additional traffic stops has been the arrest of a number of people suspected of other charges, such as drug violations. His department has taken in more than $100,000 in cash from suspected drug dealers. The department has been able to keep the funds and buy additional cars.

Through early December, the department has issued about 4,500 tickets for speeding and other traffic offenses. They have also issued about 6,300 warning tickets for lesser offenses. The sheriff said the ultimate goal is to alter motorists' behavior.

Any efforts to make the roads safer are to be commended, as long as the tactics are not heavy-handed. In this case, it seems as if the sheriff wants to educate the public that it is not acceptable to commit a traffic violation under his watch because of the number of warning tickets.

Source: The State, "Kershaw County deputies hitting DUIs, speeders," John Monk, Dec. 24, 2012

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