On The Move
Gov. Nikki Haley, SCDPS Director Smith announce successes in highway safety, new immigration unit
Oct 24, 2012
COLUMBIA, SC - October 24, 2012 - The South Carolina Department of Public Safety was joined by Gov. Nikki Haley in a “State of the Agency” news conference, announcing some of the department’s successes including record-breaking highway safety statistics and highlighting the creation of its Immigration Enforcement Unit under the leadership of Director Leroy Smith.
SCDPS announced a record in occupant restraint usage this year with more than 90 percent of motorists now buckling up. This is the highest recorded usage rate in state history. Director Smith credits proactive enforcement and public education efforts with the record usage rate – the first time the rate has climbed higher than the 90 percent mark.
Other safety belt trends: Women continue to be more likely than men to use safety belts, 93.3 percent compared to 87.6 percent. Rural occupants are less likely to use safety belts than urban occupants, 88.5 percent compared to 91.4 percent.
In addition to increased safety belt compliance, South Carolina is beginning to see a downward trend in highway fatalities. Since 2007, the average number of roadway deaths per year has fallen by 200. Additionally, while national statistics show a nine percent increase in traffic fatalities this year, South Carolina has shown a six percent decrease.
So far this year, the state has had 42 fewer fatalities. Additionally, the state made it through the 100 Deadly Days of Summers with 30 fewer fatalities than the year before. Typically, fatalities spike during the summer months. Over the busy Labor Day weekend – a 102-hour travel period – there was one fatality this year compared to seven last year.
Director Smith said SCDPS is using these encouraging trends to shape a long-term vision for the agency called Target Zero, a sustained public education and enforcement approach that focuses on significant reductions in collisions and fatalities -- one day and one life at a time. The department will formally announce its plan in 2013.
“People need to feel that South Carolina is a safe place to live and work,” Gov. Haley said. “We all use our highways and roadways to go to work, school and to vacation. As Governor of this state, I have a responsibility to do everything I can to help our officers do their jobs better and save lives. But we need the public to join us as we move toward reducing the number of fatalities on our roads to zero.”
The governor also recognized the department’s Immigration Unit, which was formed in 2011. It is the only unit of its kind in the United States. The Immigration Unit’s mission is to deter, disrupt and eliminate criminal activity associated with immigration by enforcing immigration laws pursuant to federal and state statues. The unit is also tasked with developing immigration enforcement training programs to be offered to local law enforcement agencies; assisting local law enforcement agencies with proper implementation, management and enforcement of applicable immigration laws.
The Unit has six officers. These officers completed their training this summer and have already begun making cases in conjunction with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement). The Governor and Director Smith emphasized that the unit is not focused on people solely based on the fact that they are here illegally. It is focused on illegal immigrants involved in criminal activity. Some of the areas of focus for the unit include human smuggling, violent immigrant gangs and drug smuggling.
“I am proud of what our Immigration Enforcement Unit has accomplished in a short time,” said Director Smith. “This was a unit created by an act of legislation. When we began putting it together, however, there was no roadmap to follow. We have been fortunate to attract and hire experienced law enforcement officers who have been thoroughly trained in the area of immigration enforcement.”