Barnwell County has seen 11 wrecks and 12 fatalities in 2011. That's compared with only three fatalities in 2010. (WRDW-TV / Dec. 9, 2011)
News 12 at 6 o'clock / Thursday, Dec. 8, 2011
BARNWELL, S.C. -- Times are still tough for Jennifer Smith.
"It is very hard when a child is gone. It's very hard. My life -- I don't think it'll ever be the same, because he can't be replaced," said Smith of her late son, Malcom Robinson.
Malcolm is buried right down the road from her home. It's not far from the place where the 15-year-old was the victim of a hit-and-run back in August. His body was left on the side of Highway 39 in Barnwell County.
"He won't get to go to prom. He won't get to graduate. He wanted to be a mechanic," Smith said.
But his death is part of a deadly trend in the county.
"We have had a tremendous increase in fatalities here in Barnwell County," said Sgt. Tony Bell with Troop Seven, Post A of the South Carolina Highway Patrol.
Sheriff Ed Carroll helped organize the press conference to spotlight the county's growing problem with traffic fatalities.
"We do seem to have a problem in Barnwell County with just the mere fact that numbers are up," Carroll said.
Bell said the county has seen 11 wrecks and 12 fatalities in 2011. That's compared with only three fatalities in 2010.
"It shows that there's people driving impaired and driving without their seatbelts," Carroll said.
But the trend has not been as prevalent in nearby counties.
"Our post is actually four counties, so we work more than just Barnwell County, but Barnwell County has had more of an increase than anywhere else, so that's why, right now, our focus is on Barnwell," Bell said.
And as the holidays approach, they're getting ready to write stacks of tickets and take drunken drivers to jail in Barnwell County.
"Basically, our guys don't have any holidays off," he said.
That's good news for Smith. This Christmas, her son won't get the XBox 360 she secretly bought him back in July.
"I just wish this was a dream, [and] that I could wake up and it was just not true," she said.
Bell says he's making arrangement with the Highway Patrol to put even more focus on Barnwell County. He says the other counties will be looked after, but there will be more troopers in Barnwell. He says that means more speeding tickets and DUI checkpoints.
He says there is an easy way to report dangerous drivers in South Carolina. All you have to do is dial *HP or *47. That number will send you straight to the Highway Patrol's dispatcher.
Thursday's press conference was put on by the Barnwell County Sheriff's Office, the South Carolina Highway Patrol, the Barnwell Police Department, the Williston Police Department, the Blackville Police Department, Axis 1 and the 2nd Judicial Circuit Alcohol Enforcement Team.