Look up! Traffic enforcement takes to the skies in SC for holiday travel

By: - November 20, 2023 3:03 pm

COLUMBIA — Planes will fly over South Carolina’s interstates to help troopers enforce traffic laws during the Thanksgiving holiday’s busy travel days.

The planes will patrol the state’s highways Wednesday — when people are typically driving to their Thanksgiving destinations — and Sunday, when many are driving back home. Because of the number of people on the roads, holidays are notorious for a high number of traffic accidents, according to the state’s public safety department.

The planes are normally used by the state Department of Natural Resources to enforce hunting, fishing and boating regulations. Pilots who spot drivers tailgating, swerving or otherwise acting dangerously will radio down to Highway Patrol troopers and State Transport Police, the division that enforces traffic laws for commercial vehicles. The officers can then find and pull over the driver, according to a news release.

The pilots are “lending Highway Patrol troopers and State Transport Police officers a huge helping hand,” Col. Christopher Williamson, commander of the S.C. Highway Patrol, said Monday.

AAA is predicting an increase in Thanksgiving travel nationwide this year. More than 49 million people are expected to drive more than 50 miles to their Thanksgiving destinations, a 1.7% increase from the holiday last year.

Last year in South Carolina, there were 1,126 vehicle crashes, killing 11 people, counted by state Highway Patrol troopers from the Wednesday evening before through Sunday after Thanksgiving. That doesn’t include crashes responded to by local law enforcement. The roads were slightly less deadly than Thanksgiving travel in 2021, when 13 people died in 1,445 crashes, according to the state Department of Public Safety.

“We share the same mission in keeping South Carolinians safe this holiday season and throughout the year,” said Col. Chisolm Frampton, deputy director of the natural resource department’s law enforcement division.

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Skylar Laird
Skylar Laird

Skylar Laird covers the South Carolina Legislature and criminal justice issues. Originally from Missouri, she previously worked for The Post and Courier’s Columbia bureau.