More troopers in effort to cut Horry fatalities
By Josh Hoke - The Sun News

The S.C. Highway Patrol is sending more troopers to the Grand Strand in response to an increase in traffic fatalities.

At least 10 more troopers, all members of the Highway Patrol's Aggressive Criminal Enforcement and Fatality Reduction teams, will spend the next few weeks, and possibly months, patrolling six problem highways in Horry County, Lance Cpl. Sonny Collins said Friday.

Police in Myrtle Beach said they also plan to step up enforcement on city roads.

Forty-nine people have died on Horry County roads this year, according to data compiled by The Sun News. The number of people killed on the county's roads totaled 62 people in 2006; 60 in 2005; and 73 in 2004.

"This will address the increase of fatalities over the course of the entire year," Collins said. "It was a decision by the local command staff that will hopefully help the problem that has plagued Horry County."

The troopers, who are based around the state, will be monitoring all types of violations, Collins said. The extra patrols are based along U.S. 17 Bypass, U.S. 17 Business, S.C. 544, S.C. 90, S.C. 905 and S.C. 707.

The extra manpower has not been reassigned permanently to the county, but the troopers will serve the region for an undetermined amount of time, Collins said. The extra shifts will be split between day and night.

"We are going to see what effect this has on the crashes," Collins said.

Myrtle Beach Police Department said its traffic division schedule has been overhauled to try to help reduce fatalities. Officers are now on the roads 24 hours a day instead of the last officers leaving in the early morning hours each day, Lt. Chuck Dunn said.

The city is also more frequently updating its mobile message boards with traffic-related reminders and using its mobile speed-tracking trailers, Dunn said.

"We've tried to do the best we can with the limited resources we have," said Dunn, whose division has 15 officers.

"It should also help now that July 4 has passed so our officers can do more traffic enforcement instead of running from call to call. We'll be more proactive with ticket writing. When you see more people pulled over, you tend to slow down a bit."

Horry County has remained near or at the top among counties with the highest fatality rates in 2007. However, the other counties at the top - Anderson, Charleston Greenville, Spartanburg and Richland - are fed by interstates, authorities said.

Those counties, however, do not have bike rallies, which combined for seven deaths this year. Eight of those killed were pedestrians struck while walking on or along local roads.

The majority of the fatalities have been based in the corridor between Myrtle Beach and Garden City Beach. Eight have been inside the city of Myrtle Beach, but the vast majority have been in unincorporated areas of the county.