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Highway 17: POA group pushes for crackdown on speeders

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

A Highway Patrol motorcycle team will be back on Highway 17 in the Pawleys Island area soon. Sgt. Tony Love, who is in charge of the troopers in Georgetown and Williamsburg counties, knows there will be complaints.

“Every time they’ve been here, I’ve received complaints that they write too many tickets,” he said.

The Waccamaw Neck Council of Property Owners Associations has a different complaint about what board member Henry Jobe said “has reached the point of epidemic speeding and reckless driving.” The council is pressing state and local officials to make the area known as a place where speed limits on the highway are strictly enforced. It will ask the state Department of Transportation to post signs to let drivers know.

“There is a need to make an impression,” Jobe said.

Love has 26 troopers in his command. There are six on each patrol shift. Along with obvious duties of traffic enforcement and accident investigation, they also work drug- and gang-related crimes. “I can’t tell you I can step up with additional troopers,” Love told the POA council this week. But he has asked for the motorcycle traffic unit to be assigned to the county. “They’ll make a statement,” he said.

The unit is shared among the eight counties in the patrol district. But the members live in Horry County and like working in this area. “They’re aggressive workers,” Love said. He can handle the complaints.

The motorcycle team was here in April. Some people told Love the Highway Patrol should concentrate “on more serious problems.” He told the POA council he agrees that traffic on Waccamaw Neck is a serious problem. “I don’t like what I see when I’m out on the highway,” he said. “I take it personally when something happens out there on the highway.”

Love grew up in the Murrells Inlet area and was posted to Georgetown County in 2008. That year there were 31 traffic fatalities in Georgetown and Williamsburg. There have been 10 so far this year, according to the Department of Public Safety, three in Georgetown County.

“I understand the issues,” Love told the POA council. But while the focus is on Highway 17 for accidents, most of the fatalities occur on back roads, he noted.

Two troopers recently join his unit, which is almost at full strength. “We could use more people here,” Love said. He is currently stretched because troopers have helped with law enforcement in Williamsburg County following the suspension and conviction of the sheriff on federal fraud charges.

“We are an assisting agency,” Love said. Troopers work closely with Georgetown County deputies, who also enforce traffic laws.

There will be an additional Highway Patrol presence in the area with the start of construction on the median on Highway 17 in the Pawleys Island business district, Love said. Two troopers from the Safety Improvement Team will be on duty in the construction area between Waverly Road and Baskervill Drive while work is under way. The work will be done at night, Love said.

Tom Stickler, the POA council president, said the group would be willing to pay for signs that let drivers know traffic laws are enforced. DOT will have to agree to install it,” Love said. But he was hopeful that his troopers could live up to the promise if the signs are allowed. He believes the motorcycle unit can be brought in three or four times a year. “Just saturate the area. At least the locals will know they’re there,” he said.

Council members agreed that locals are part of the problem, but they want what Jobe called “conspicuous and obvious enforcement.” After meeting with Love, they believe they will get it.

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