SURFSIDE BEACH, SC (WBTW) - The Surfside Beach Police Department is facing a shortage of police cars because they've had six patrol car accidents since April.
Chief Kenny Hofmann with Surfside Beach Police said none of the accidents were caused by the officers, but the bigger issue is the fact that people are distracted while driving. People falling asleep at the wheel, not yielding at appropriate times, and not moving over for law enforcement have contributed to some of these accidents. He also said people have side-swiped patrol cars because they were looking at what was happening on the side of the road, instead of looking at the road in front of them.
As of now, two of their patrol cars have been totaled and one needs about $3,700 in repairs. Chief Hofmann said the problem with distracted drivers is that it puts the officers in danger. "It causes our officers to start having to divide their attention from the very dangerous work that they're doing on the side of the road," said Chief Hofmann. "Dealing with their safety and dealing with the existing situation that they're involved in, causing the officer to be afraid that someone not paying attention passing by could hurt them."
Chief Hofmann said until their new patrol cars come in, all patrol cars are being used around the clock. He said this can become a domino effect, because driving 24/7 shortens the life span of the car, and that throws off their budget because they are having to replace cars sooner than necessary.
The big lesson behind the problem they're facing now is to make sure drivers are paying attention on the road and moving over for emergency vehicles. "At least slow down to a very safe speed as they're passing those vehicles, if they're not able to move over," said Chief Hofmann. "The penalty in South Carolina is quite stiff for a violation of the Move Over Law, with fines in excess of $1000."
The cost is about $40,000 per car, and they're expected to be in by the end of July. Chief Hofmann said they've placed a rush order on the cars to end the shortage.
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