The Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office has a new deputy, and he’s the quiet type.
The Sheriff’s Office recently added a mannequin to its efforts to slow speeding drivers on county roadways and gather intelligence on where the hotspots for speeding are.
Drivers may see the mannequin sitting alone in a patrol vehicle alone in areas of the county. His most recent appearance was Thursday afternoon on Hilton Head Island near Windmill Harbor.
“Based on the complaints that we’ve had from residents from Windmill Harbor and the area at the foot of the bridge to Squire Pope Road, we are trying to better track traffic patterns,” Sheriff P.J. Tanner said on Friday. The area has also been the scene of a number of crashes.
The mannequin is a tool to get drivers to slow down at the sight of a patrol car and aids a nearby radar trailer in tracking speeds at certain times and days, Tanner said.
“The (radar trailer) gives us all kinds of information,” Tanner said. “It gives us the highest speed, slowest speed and average speed for any day or time of the week. ... It tells us the best time for the most violations, and that’s when enforcement comes out. We are going to do this all over the county in areas where we get complaints about traffic violations.”
Tanner said the mannequin shows the Sheriff’s Office how helpful the appearance of law enforcement is to changing speed patterns while the trailer shows them when and where to increase enforcement.
“It’s a new strategy (for the Sheriff’s Office),” he said. “It’s still tourist season, school is starting back and we have a huge commuter volume every afternoon. With the volume of cars we have traveling our main roads, you have to be strategic with enforcement.”
The department uses the mannequin when a patrol car is not being used on shift, Tanner said, and its use comes at no extra cost to the county.
The mannequin’s appearances around the county are random. Drivers who think they know its location should still be cautious because the person inside the patrol car might be a real deputy.
“When I worked for the Department of Transportation, I waived to a mannequin parked on the road several times until I realized it was a mannequin,” Tanner said. “You never know if it’s going to be a mannequin or a deputy.”