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– By Tiffani Ireland –
Edgefield County had zero traffic fatalities in 2013; a goal no other county in South Carolina was able to achieve. The accomplishment, according to Allen Easler with Cornerstone, the alcohol and drug abuse commission that serves Edgefield, McCormick, Greenwood, and Abbeville counties, has been a long time in the making.
Easler, who is the Community Action for a Safer Tomorrow (CAST) Coordinator for Cornerstone, said in an interview with The Advertiser, Friday, Jan. 10, that the beginning of this achievement is rooted in a 2009 grant initiative to deal specifically with lowering underage drinking and traffic fatalities. When compared to other like counties in SC, Edgefield rated #2 in the state at that time for DUI crashes.
Upon joining the initiative and accepting the grant money, which was made available for four years, Easler said he spent nearly a year talking with different area law enforcement agencies, courts, businesses, schools, and other interested entities as to the reasons for the high percentage of crashes within the county. He said he learned many things during that year, among which were three main contributing factors for these numbers; a lack in the conducting of check points within the county, equipment needs for local law enforcement to effectively carry out check points, and a need for training. After addressing these needs, Easler said the movement “snowballed from there.”
While he calls Edgefield “very blessed” to have had no fatalities last year, Easler noted this achievement was “very much a collaborative effort.” He cited the efforts of local law enforcement, who he acknowledged had always “been out there,” but with proper equipment was able to much better address the problems associated with traffic fatalities. Such equipment included vehicle cameras, flashlights, and signage which were able to be purchased with the awarded grant money. Easler also credited Edgefield County Council whose purchase of new patrol vehicles outfitted with more up-to-date equipment was a “tremendous help.”
After three years of implementation of the initiative to lower traffic fatalities within the county, Edgefield County has gone 395 days, as of Friday, Jan. 10, with no traffic fatalities. Here’s hoping we can continue this streak through 2014.