South Carolina Outpaces Previous Year for Number of Deadly Automobile Accidents
The number of deaths due to automobile accidents has spiked in South Carolina this year. Fatalities on the state’s roads already rose in 2014 compared to 2013, and according to the Department of Public Safety, 2015 will beat 2014’s automobile accident stats.
In 2014, there were 441 fatal automobile-related crashes; 8 months into 2015, the state has already reached 540 fatal automobile accidents, a difference of 99 crashes. Last year, 476 people died in traffic accidents, and this year already, 583 people have died. Of those automobile accidents this year so far, 201 involved drivers or passengers not wearing seatbelts.
Motorcycle fatalities lead the traffic accident statistics this year, with 88 crashes involving a motorcyclist. In 2014, 57 motorcyclists died in fatal crashes. Eight out of every 10 motorcyclists who died last year were not wearing a helmet.
Both bicyclist and pedestrian deaths are up this year as well. So far, 10 bicyclists have died in 2015 (7 died in 2014); 61 pedestrians have been struck and killed in 2015, while 49 were killed last year.
“We are noticing there is an increase in South Carolina and we think that is due to the economy improving,” Steve Phillips, traffic safety manager for AAA Carolinas, told The Greenville News while discussing the automobile accident problem. While seemingly unrelated, a better economy allows more people to afford cars and gasoline, so more people are on the roads to cause accidents.
Phillips added that there are also more motorcycles on the road – 117,103 two-wheeled vehicles compared to last year’s 114,889 registered two-wheeled vehicles – which contributes to a rise in motorcycle-related accidents and deaths.
“Whenever you have an increase in motorcycle use, you are going to have an increase in motorcycle fatalities,” Phillips said. “We are still a strong proponent of the helmet law and I think those two correlating with each other is what is causing your motorcycle fatalities.”
According to Sergeant Bob Beres, spokesman for the South Carolina Highway Patrol, more people have died in multiple-vehicle automobile accidents this year. So far, there have been 30 such accidents in 2015 (there were 31 for all of 2014), and more people have suffered fatal injuries due to those crashes.
Beres added that there were more DUI arrests and accidents this year. Unfortunately, South Carolina leads the US in DUI-caused motor vehicle accidents.
“If you’re going to go out there drinking and driving, if you’re not going to be buckled up, if you’re going down the road speeding, your chances are high of getting in a collision and not living through one,” Beres said.
Motorcyclists are not allowed to drive drunk, but until recently, South Carolina’s moped laws allowed those two-wheeled drivers to drink and operate their vehicles. Although mopeds cannot move as fast as cars, moped drivers are harder to see, and if they weave along the road while drunk, they could put themselves in serious danger. The state closed that loophole in April, making it a crime to drink and operate a moped.
Nationally, distracted driving is also a serious problem. South Carolina became the 44th state last year to outlaw texting and driving, but talking on a phone or other types of distracted driving like messing with the radio or eating are still legal in the state.