The South Carolina Department of Public Safety, including the State Transport Police and the Highway Patrol, are teaming up with the SC Trucking Association to educate motorists about traveling safely with commercial motor vehicles and to make a strong push for seat belt safety going into one of the heaviest traveled holidays of the year.
Troopers and officers will be distributing safety materials and talking to motorists at various interstate rest areas about the dangers of long trips and congested traffic.
Last year, 11 people died over Thanksgiving weekend. There were three fatalities the year before. The official holiday travel period begins Wednesday at 6 p.m. and ends Sunday at midnight. Thanksgiving typically involves longer trips, and this can increase the chance for fatigue and distraction behind the wheel.
"We had one fatality over the Labor Day weekend this year, which was a long travel period and a time when we typically see a greater number of collisions and deaths," SCDPS Director Leroy Smith said. "While that was tremendous progress, it is not good enough. Our goal for Thanksgiving weekend is ZERO fatalities. One death is unacceptable to us, and we will use every tool we have to prevent highway tragedies."
There have been 727 total fatalities this year compared to 745 last year at this time (this includes motor vehicles, pedestrians, motorcyclists and bicyclists). Of 480 motor vehicles deaths, 279 of those people killed were not wearing safety belts.
Highway Patrol Col. Mike Oliver said fatality prevention largely comes down to the motoring public taking simple steps to protect themselves and their families. "We are still seeing a disproportionate number of deaths where motorists were not buckled up. I cannot emphasize enough how often our troopers see collisions where people would have likely survived had they been properly restrained."
State Transport Police Col. Leroy Taylor said that his officers, who are responsible for regulating and enforcing commercial motor vehicle traffic, will place a strong emphasis on helping motorists understand some of the challenges commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers face when interacting with passenger cars.
"Some people simply don't realize the challenges of interacting with truck traffic," Taylor said. "Large trucks cannot maneuver as quickly to avoid collisions as a smaller vehicle. We are educating motorists to stay out of CMVs' blind spots and to remember not to stop suddenly or veer in front of a CMV." At the safety breaks, motorists will have a chance to get into the cab of a CMV and observe what it is like from a truck operator's perspective.
SCDPS officials emphasized that lower gas prices may lead to more travel and increased congestion on our roadways.
Long trips also can make drivers more prone to distraction as they "zone out" after having traveled long distances without taking frequent breaks. Drivers may find themselves adjusting the radio, taking their eyes off the roadway to talk with passengers or becoming engrossed in cell phone conversations.
- Taking frequent breaks to stretch your legs and get some fresh air
- Keeping a safe following distance (at least three seconds behind the car in front of you) To measure the three-second rule: start counting when a car passes a fixed object -- it should be three seconds
- Reporting aggressive drivers or drivers exhibiting signs of impairment by calling *HP.
- Being aware of work zones, of law enforcement assisting other motorists and paying attention to the Move Over law.
- Refraining from travel right after a large meal when you might be more prone to suffering from fatigue behind the wheel.