AIKEN - With the Fourth of July falling midweek and fatalities mounting, law enforcement officials are worried people will stretch out holiday celebrations, leading to more tragedies on Aiken County roads.
Beginning today, the South Carolina Highway Patrol, with the help of Aiken County's municipal police forces, will combat reckless and impaired driving through 15 drivers license checkpoints.
What's next: The first of 15 holiday checkpoints will begin at 9 a.m. today on U.S. Highway 25 at Interstate 20's Exit 5.
In South Carolina, 14 road fatalities occurred last weekend, from 6 p.m. Friday to midnight Sunday, said Lance Cpl. Kelly Hughes. Two Aiken County men died.
Lawrence Rearden, 57, of Aiken, was killed Sunday evening when his vehicle hit a tree off U.S. Highway 25 in Edgefield County. Morris Hazel, 29, of Clearwater, was killed Saturday after his motorcycle hit a guard rail in the median of U.S. Highway 1 in North Augusta.
Another Aiken man died Monday afternoon when his car struck a tree head-on.
Scott Pattison, 33, of 205 Beaver Branch Road, Aiken, was traveling south on Rainbow Falls Road at 3:50 p.m. when the vehicle, a 1996 Honda two-door, attempted to pass another vehicle,Lance Cpl. Hughes said.
The Honda was traveling at a high rate of speed when the driver lost control and skidded off the right side of the roadway striking a tree head-on, he said. Mr. Pattison was the only occupant. He was not wearing a seat belt and died at the scene, Lance Cpl. Hughes said. The accident is under investigation.
Tony Capp, of Aiken County EMS, looks at the motor of a Honda from a crash that killed a driver on Rainbow Falls Road near Graniteville on Monday. Officers will set up road checkpoints to try to curb holiday fatalities.
"Aiken County has statistics I'm not very proud of," Coroner Sue Townsend said.
Twenty-one people have died on Aiken County roads this year, three more deaths than this time last year.
Of the 21 deaths, four have occurred within a municipality - one in Aiken and three in North Augusta. Last year, only one death occurred within a city's limits, those of Aiken, Highway Patrol Sgt. Kenneth Phelps said.
Now, police are concerned about the dangerous holidays still to come, including Labor Day and Christmas.
"I'm afraid if we don't get the public to help us out, we'll have a higher number of fatalities than last year," Sgt. Phelps said.
Aiken County had 48 road fatalities last year, with one occurring the day after the Fourth of July.
Law enforcement officials are encouraging motorists who sees a reckless driver to dial "*47" on their cell phones to report the incident.
"If someone is stopped by an officer, they should thank God at that moment that he is coming to you, (rather) than me coming to your family," Ms. Townsend said.
"If someone is stopped by an officer, they should thank God at that moment that he is coming to you, (rather) than me coming to your family." - Sue Townsend, Aiken County coroner
Reach Carly Phillips at (803) 648-1395 or firstname.lastname@example.org.