BRACK: Too many dying in South Carolina traffic wrecks

By Andy Brack, editor and publisher | Too many South Carolinians are dying in traffic wrecks as more state residents take to the road due, in part, to less expensive fuel.

00_icon_brackAs reported Friday by Statehouse Report, some 930 people died as of Christmas Eve on South Carolina roads in 2015. That’s 133 more people than died in wrecks in 2014 and it’s more than any year since 2007 when 1,077 people died on the state’s highways.

State officials say with gas prices now at or below $2 per gallon across the state, it’s easier for more people to drive from one place to another. More people on the roads, such as the 1.4 million South Carolinians who are predicted by AAA Carolinas to drive 50 or more miles during the holiday season, simply makes the highways more dangerous.


“It’s a combination of more people getting on the road and them not going out in the last four to five years when the economy was tight,” one state official explained.

But another culprit in an era of safer cars are drivers and passengers who don’t wear seatbelts. About two thirds of those involved in fatal car wrecks this year — 613 people — had access to seat belts. More than half of those — 309 victims — weren’t wearing seatbelts.

Just look at the grim stories from the last few days:

  • A Charlotte teen died Dec. 20 in Greenville County when her car ran off the road in the early morning, hit parked cars and flipped.   She wasn’t wearing a seatbelt.
  • Two days before Christmas, a Summerville high school student on a duck hunting trip with three friends died after the vehicle hit standing water on a Colleton County road, went out of control, overturned and hit a tree. The victim reportedly had been wearing a seatbelt, but took it off just before the crash to plug in a charger, according to media reports.
  • On Christmas, two died and one person was hurt in Berkeley County when a speeding car ran off the left side of the road and hit a power pole and tree. None of the three was wearing seatbelts, officials said.


Mount Pleasant town councilman and funeral director Mark M. Smith, who recently had a family member die in a crash, says he’s seen more deaths from traffic accidents than he cares to remember.

“Regardless of the situation or who is at fault or not, families are oftentimes left with many unanswered questions and are forced to travel down and through a very different grief journey,” Smith said. “The younger the person involved only exacerbates a difficult and challenging time and process.”

His advice for today’s drivers?

“If there were an opportunity to speak into the lives of people just before they got behind the wheel of an automobile or just before they threw a leg over their motorcycle, I would give them a gentle reminder to buckle up or put on your helmet, remain alert and watch out for the other drivers on the road and not to take any chances at all if they have had anything to drink or were just tired or fatigued — if not for your own sake, do it for your children or grandchildren.

“We know accidents will happen but let’s do everything we can to avoid them so not to become another statistic.”

In the days and years ahead, pay more attention to safety on South Carolina’s highways. Buckle up. Don’t drink and drive — troopers and police are on special lookout at this time of year since alcohol-related crashes are the number one cause of death on state roads, according to officials.

And remember to drive defensively so you can avoid trouble. Finally, don’t get mad at other idiots on the road. Instead, back off and breathe deeply.


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