Lexington County Sheriff James Metts wants to add four deputies whose focus will be cracking down on speeding, drunken driving and other traffic offenses as roads grow more deadly.
His effort comes after traffic deaths in the county rose to 48 in 2012 and 52 in 2011, both above the 39 in 2010.
Put another way, one of every 17 traffic deaths in South Carolina is occurring today on county roads compared to one in every 20 three years ago. County roads were among the most deadly in the state during that period, ranking anywhere from seventh- to second-most among 46 counties.
That rise “has enhanced concern about traffic safety,” Metts said.
Lexington County led the state in traffic deaths for more than half of last year before the problem eased after more attention to stop drunken driving.
Metts is seeking $562,000 in federal aid to pay for new officers to join a 12-member traffic enforcement team among his 260 deputies.
If the aid is received, the extra help would come on board this fall. The four extra deputies are an early start on the 28 overall that Metts would like to add in by mid-2014.
Road safety typically is better with more officers, particularly if problem areas are targeted, said Angela Vogel Daley, a spokeswoman for AAA of the Carolinas.
“Having more law enforcement on the road, we see improvement in most cases,” she said.
Reducing danger on the road needs to be a priority, Lexington County councilman Bobby Keisler said.
“We’re seeing a lot of traffic problems that mean we need more officers out there,” he said.
Law enforcement officials attribute the high rate of traffic deaths on county roads mainly to drunk driving, failure to hook up seat belts and refusal to wear motorcycle helmets.
Deputies are keeping an eye on what Metts says are three trouble spots for drunken driving in the Red Bank area and along the south shore of Lake Murray.
Deaths on county roads last year included 33 vehicle passengers, eight pedestrians and seven motorcyclists.
The two deaths in the county this year as of Wednesday were pedestrians, one of whom police say was struck by a driver who was allegedly intoxicated.
Reach Flach at (803) 771-8483.