COLUMBIA, S.C. – The South Carolina Department of Public Safety urges motorists to plan early and leave plenty of time for travel since the number of motorists traveling this holiday is predicted to be up.
SCHP is increasing enforcement activity around the state already to assist travelers and prevent collisions, fatalities and injuries during the long holiday travel weekend.
AAA Carolinas is predicting that nearly half a million South Carolinians are expected to hit the road for the Independence Day holiday, the highest number in more than 13 years. Even though gas prices are the highest since 2008, South Carolina’s are the lowest in the nation, prompting an increase in highway travel.
The official holiday travel period begins Thursday at 6 p.m. and runs through Sunday at midnight, a total of 78 hours. In 2013, the travel period was 102 hours and 10 people were killed on SC highways during that time.
“Motorists should anticipate heavier-than-normal traffic this Independence Day holiday since it is falling on a Friday and people will likely couple that with vacation time,” said SCDPS' Leroy Smith. “We urge motorists to reduce their speeds, leave plenty of room for a safe stopping distance and be aware of sharing the road with motorcyclists and other vulnerable roadway users.”
As of July 1, 358 people have been killed on the highways compared to 365 people last year. Through midnight June 1, 42 pedestrians, 35 motorcyclists and five bicyclists have died on state roads and highways.
Of the 256 motor vehicle occupants who have died in 2014, 124 were not wearing seat belts.
Highway Patrol Col. Mike Oliver said the Highway Patrol will begin a special enforcement effort for the month of July called Operation L.I.F.E. (Lower Interstate Fatalities Effort) focusing on DUI, speeding and safety belt violations on our interstates. Motorists will see more troopers around congested, high-collision interstate areas.
“We cannot emphasize enough the importance of designating a driver and planning ahead if alcohol is part of your July 4 plans,” Oliver said. “Our troopers will be especially vigilant for signs of impaired driving over the holiday weekend.”
Interstates are a particular focus this time of year because of the heavy summer vacation travel, which often causes increased congestion and collisions. Preliminary data from 2013 show the primary contributing factors to interstate collisions were speed, improper lane usage/change and DUI.
The Highway Patrol also encourages motorists to keep these safety tips in mind when traveling:
• Ensure vehicles are properly maintained;
• If you break down OR have a minor collision, pull as far off the roadway as possible, activate emergency flashers and call *HP (*47) or 911;
• Move over for emergency workers and vehicles.