Speeding won't fly in Bluffton
Police step up campaign to bust dangerous drivers
Published Wednesday, June 14, 2006
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BLUFFTON -- Plagued by a spike in traffic crashes, Bluffton police officers are in the midst of a speeding-ticket blitz.

In a highly visible effort last week, the Bluffton Police Department pulled 10 officers and the police chief from their regular duties to target speeders on roads with high numbers of crashes or resident speeding complaints. Within a few hours, 70 motorists were cited.

Officers should keep their ticket-writing hands ready for action, Police Chief David McAllister said Tuesday.

"We want to make a big show to get people to think about slowing down," he said.

Between January and the end of last month, the number of crashes in the town was up by 720 percent compared with the same period in 2005, police records show.

Meanwhile, both the number of traffic stops and tickets issued by Bluffton officers declined by about 50 percent.

McAllister partially attributes the high volume of wrecks to nighttime construction along U.S. 278 and tourists unfamiliar with the area's congested roads. However, the main culprit is drivers ignoring speed limits, he said.

A two-officer detail is permanently assigned to traffic enforcement. For the next two weeks, they will exclusively patrol high-collision stretches of U.S. 278, including its intersections with Buck Island Road, Buckwalter Parkway, Simmonsville Road, S.C. 46 and S.C. 170.

Another blitz consisting of about 10 officers is expected next week. The town usually has just three officers working per shift.

There will be zero-tolerance for people caught speeding, especially in active construction zones, said Sgt. "Downtown" Gerry Brown, one of the officers assigned to the traffic duty.

"In a construction zone, you're going to get a ticket," Brown said. "We don't issue warnings, so you might as well not make any excuses because we've heard them all before."

Speeding citations in South Carolina range from $76 to $440, depending on the speed. They are doubled in work and safety zones.

McAllister is hesitant to call the show of force a speed trap.

"The phrase 'speed trap' implies that we're doing it to make money," he said. "We don't make a lot of money off of tickets. We're doing this to lower the crash rate."

In addition to getting more officers on the streets to hand out tickets, the town is considering the purchase of a second speed board -- a trailer that posts each vehicle's speed as it passes. Newer models contain analysis software that tracks trends for how fast motorists are driving during specific times of the day, a tool that would allow for more efficient targeted enforcement, McAllister said.

"Beaufort County has a pretty high accident rate," McAllister said. "We're trying to get a handle on our little corner of it."

Contact Daniel Brownstein at 706-8125 or . To comment on this story, please go to islandpacket.com.