Law enforcement acts to slow State 11, U.S. 178 speeders

By John C. Stevenson • STAFF WRITER • March 10, 2009

Most people head to scenic State 11 in northern Pickens and Oconee counties to take in the beauty of the lakes and foothills, but some motorcyclists see the long, straight stretches and winding mountain highways as an opportunity to crack open the throttle.

Now law enforcement is cracking down.
"We have complaints every weekend that it’s warm," Pickens County Assistant Sheriff Tim Morgan said. "Quite often (motorcyclists) time themselves (on U.S. 178), seeing who can make the fastest run. They’re passing in curves, and there’s some extreme high-speed reckless driving. Our mission there is to save lives and try to break that activity."
Pickens County has already increased weekend patrols along a stretch of U.S. 178 going north from State 11 to the North Carolina line, Morgan said.
State troopers promise to work together with sheriff’s deputies from Pickens and Oconee counties this spring to ramp up enforcement of traffic laws, according to Lance Cpl. Kathy Hiles, of the state Highway Patrol.

"As we get into warmer weather, we do increase our enforcement along Highway 11, mainly because of the increased traffic, especially toward the lake areas and Oconee County," Hiles said.

She said troopers are stretched thin as they patrol Pickens and Oconee counties, but as the weather warms up, the usual complement of troopers will be joined by troopers from the motorcycle division.

And in April and May, she said, troopers will work with the sheriff’s offices "in doing specific speed patrols -- setting up radar at certain points, and working as a group."

Morgan said there are increased patrols each year around Hartwell Lake because the county has a contract with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to provide additional protection around areas such as Twin Lakes, Twelve Mile Park and Cherry Point during the busy summer season.

State 11, designated as a scenic highway, presents special concerns, Morgan said.

"Highway 11 is a main corridor from I-85 going in various directions," Morgan said. "I know there’s going to be some illegal activity coming down Highway 11, so we will be working that."

Morgan said that for many, a day at the lake includes alcohol, but that drivers need to make sure they’re sober when they get back on the roads.

"We want it to be a safe environment," Morgan said. "We have a license check (at the Pickens-Oconee county line on State 11) that benefits both of us, and kind of sends a message. I think we’ve been successful."

Bob Emily, a Greenwood resident, was motorcycle riding Tuesday on State 11 with a group of friends who call themselves the Social Security Gang. They had stopped at Aunt Sue’s, a popular restaurant not far from Table Rock State Park in Pickens County.

Emily said he has seen some examples of reckless driving during the group’s frequent outings along State 11. "You’ll see some young people" driving recklessly, he said. "But we’re not into that."