Horry County is the state’s most dangerous county for motorcycle collisions and injurious motorcycle crashes, according to AAA Carolinas’ annual analysis, based on 2012 crash data. Horry ranked second in both of those categories in 2011 and third in 2010.
Horry – along with Charleston, Greenville and Richland counties – also is among the top five in AAA Carolinas’ list of South Carolina’s most dangerous counties for collisions for the third consecutive year.
Charleston County has ranked as the most dangerous county in the state for the past three years and appeared in the top three for the past eight years. With 12,031 traffic crashes in 2012, Charleston County averages 342.4 crashes per 100 million vehicle miles traveled - 55 percent higher than the state average of 221.3. Collisions in Charleston County account for 11 percent of all collisions in South Carolina, even though it only has 7 percent of all the state’s vehicle miles traveled.
Greenville County, which has ranked second in the state for collisions for three years straight, averaged 334.5 crashes per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, Richland County averaged 285.7, and Horry County averaged 268.7.
Greenville and Richland counties both appeared in the top three for the past eight years, and Horry County has appeared in the top five for six of the past seven years.
Ranking fifth this year was Pickens County, averaging 268.1 crashes per 100 million vehicle miles traveled. Although it didn’t appear in the top five for 2011, Pickens ranked fourth for collisions in 2010.
“Consistently high rankings for being one of the most dangerous counties in the state should be a wake-up call for better traffic enforcement or road design,” said David E. Parsons, president and CEO of AAA Carolinas.
AAA Carolinas’ annual Dangerous Counties analysis, inaugurated in 1995, is one of several ways to look at S.C. traffic crash data and is done to remind motorists of the need for safe and defensive driving, especially in counties with above-average traffic crashes, injuries and deaths.
AAA Carolinas bases its annual ranking of the most dangerous counties on the likelihood of a certain type of crash – fatal, injurious, motorcycle, tractor-trailer, total – based on vehicle miles traveled.
Nationally, rural roads account for two-thirds of fatal crashes.
“In addition to more curves, insufficient road markings and limited police presence, rural roads are prone to more single-vehicle accidents, particularly those involving alcohol,” Parsons said.
Ranked most dangerous for fatal crashes, Williamsburg County in eastern South Carolina had 3.58 fatal crashes per 100 million vehicle miles traveled – more than twice the state average of 1.65.
The most dangerous county for motorcycle collisions and injurious motorcycle crashes was Horry County, followed by Marlboro, Greenville, Oconee and Pickens counties as having the best chance of being in a motorcycle collision.
Those ranked as the best chance of being in an injurious crash after Horry were Marlboro, Pickens, Greenville and Greenwood.
For fatal motorcycle crashes, Oconee, Williamsburg, Clarendon, Lancaster and Edgefield ranked in the top five. All were new for 2012 except Lancaster, which ranked as number two for fatal motorcycle crashes in 2011.
These five counties accounted for 13 percent of fatal motorcycle crashes in South Carolina while only carrying 5 percent of the total vehicle miles traveled.
Overall, fatal motorcycle crashes in South Carolina increased 3 percent from 104 in 2011 to 107 in 2012, accounting for 13 percent of all fatal traffic crashes.
The five counties that offered the best chance of being in a fatal tractor-trailer crash in 2012 were Clarendon, Calhoun, Williamsburg, Barnwell and Cherokee. Other than Barnwell, which ranked fourth, none appeared on the list in 2011.
Overall, fatal tractor-trailer crashes were up 3 percent from 63 in 2011 to 65 in 2012 and account for about 8 percent of all fatal crashes.
The county with the best chance of not being in a collision was Jasper, which has appeared in the top four for the past five years. Jasper had just 90.8 crashes per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, compared to the state average of 221.3.
For the third-consecutive year, Calhoun County ranked safest in the state for injurious crashes. Union County, with a single traffic fatality in 2012, offered the best chance of not being in a fatal crash.
The deadliest county with the highest total number of fatal crashes was Greenville with 67, up nearly 22 percent from 55 in 2011, while Horry had 51, Spartanburg 48, Anderson 45 and Lexington 45.
The total number of traffic fatalities in South Carolina increased 4 percent from 828 in 2011 to 863 in 2012. Although vehicle miles traveled were up slightly – just 0.3 percent compared with 2011 – the relative number of crashes was up significantly, from 209 crashes per 100 million vehicle miles traveled in 2011 to 221.3 in 2012.
AAA Carolinas received state traffic statistics from the S.C. Department of Transportation and performs its own analysis to determine the most dangerous counties based on vehicle miles traveled.