Be careful out there.
After five fatal wrecks in Horry County in less than a week, it should hardly be necessary to emphasize the need for caution behind the wheel -- or the handlebars.
This time of year is always a bit more dangerous as we witness the annual influx of summer visitors, eager to reach the beach or their hotel room after a long drive. But it wouldn’t be fair to blame all of the increased road danger on visitors. School is out for the summer, many year-round residents are taking time off work, and there are simply more cars filling our roads, as the frequent traffic congestion can attest to.
Sometimes there is simply nothing we can do to avoid a traffic collision. Cynthia Ayala, killed Thursday in Surfside Beach, was sitting at a stoplight, doing nothing out of the ordinary, when a car veered off the town’s frontage road across two lanes of traffic and slammed into her vehicle. But often a little extra vigilance or courtesy can prevent a crash.
Bear in mind that there are an awful lot of people on the roads who probably aren’t all that familiar with their route or destination. Myrtle Beach’s population of about 27,000 can swell to 300,000 or more during busy weekends or holidays, and that’s just one city. Thousands more will fill the rest of the Strand. While those of us who live here year-round know the streets and the speed limits, visitors are often traveling them for the first time.
Don’t let yourself get too flustered if the car in front of you with out-of-state plates is driving 15 mph under the limit or suddenly switches lanes to make a quick turn. Just pay attention and be ready to react if necessary. Drivers should never indulge in texting on their phones while behind the wheel, but this is a particularly important time of year to break such a dangerous habit.
Because we’re host to so many visitors each year, it should be a priority of regional planners to simplify our roads and eliminate confusing hazards, including the frontage road in Surfside Beach. While it’s not at all clear that the perplexing road design was a factor in the most recent Surfside Beach crash, the road has seen more than its share of other wrecks in recent years.
Surfside Beach Town Council has petitioned the Grand Strand Area Transportation Study committee to move up the timetable for revamping the hazardous road -- now in the long-range plan for 2020 -- and such a move would be welcome. The current configuration has long confounded visitors and residents alike and put both at risk, whether in the multiple, dangerous median cut-throughs that force drivers to pull out across a busy highway without the assistance of a stoplight, or because of the frontage road’s yield signs (rather than safer stop signs) that encourage reckless drivers to speed through intersections with just a passing glance at oncoming traffic.
Of course, projects such as widening roads and changing traffic patterns take money, and there’s only so much to go around. If GSATS members are not prepared to alter their priorities and Surfside Beach residents are still concerned, they may want to start looking at ways to find the money themselves. After all, it’s easy to ask that your project be moved up a list paid for by largely state and federal dollars. But nothing says real concern like putting your own money into the pot.
Surfside Beach frontage road aside, however, drivers are finding the roads dangerous all over the county. Do what you can to stay safe. Drive carefully, buckle up and pay attention.