Highway deaths for S.C., Grand Strand area rise in 2012

01/01/2013 8:16 PM

01/02/2013 7:53 AM

More people died on South Carolina roads in 2012 than the previous year, the second year in a row the state saw a year-over-year increase, and based on a combined total through Sunday Horry and Georgetown counties followed the trend.

The state Highway Patrol’s preliminary reports show 833 deaths on South Carolina highways and roads last year, compared with 827 deaths in 2011. The number of deaths is well below the peak of 1,052 people killed on the state’s roads in 2007.

The Highway Patrol recorded a total of 61 deaths on the roads in Horry and Georgetown counties through Sunday, up from 57 total a year ago, although deaths in Horry County fell by five.

Specifically by the counties, more than twice as many people died on Georgetown County roads in 2012, at 14, compared to five the previous year. In Horry County there were 47 deaths compared to 52 the previous year.

The numbers reflect only crashed investigated by the Highway Patrol. Troopers did not report any fatal crashes in Horry or Georgetown counties on New Years Eve or New Years day, according to Sr. Trooper Bridget Wyant.

Troopers said 554 of the people killed were in vehicles, and 58 percent of them were not wearing seat belts.

“So many of those deaths are preventable. It only takes a second to click a seat belt,” Highway Patrol Lance Cpl. Brent Kelly said.

The state continues to see a disturbing rise in the number of pedestrians killed. At least 115 pedestrians were fatally struck by vehicles in 2012. The pedestrian death toll was 110 in 2011 and just 89 two years ago.

Troopers plan to continue an education campaign in 2013. In many cases, pedestrians were hit at night while walking in the roadway or while crossing streets and highways away from intersections.

“Pedestrians need to remember that they don’t have the right of way except in a few places,” Kelly said. “It’s not safe to assume drivers are always watching and are always going to slow down.”

Road deaths in South Carolina reached their lowest point in nearly 30 years in 2010 with 806 fatalities – the lowest number since 730 people died on the state’s roads in 1982. Troopers have credited the drop in highway deaths from their peak in 2007 to people driving fewer miles as well as greater seat belt use and drunken driving crackdowns.

The Highway Patrol won’t know for months how many of the 2012 deaths were caused by drunken drivers.

Greenville County reported the most deaths with 65, followed by 51 deaths in Richland County and 48 deaths each in Lexington and Spartanburg counties. Just one traffic death was reported in Union County; two each were reported in Bamberg and Marlboro counties; and Abbeville, Allendale and McCormick counties reported three deaths each.

When adjusted for population, Calhoun, Colleton and Jasper counties had the state’s most dangerous roads. York County reported 26 deaths, which was the lowest fatality rate per capita of the state’s 15 counties with more than 100,000 people.

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