The number of people who have died on South Carolina’s roads is higher now than it was at the end of July 2010. If that trend continues through the end of the year, it would end three consecutive years of declines.
At least 445 people have died on the state’s highways so far this year– 5 more than in 2010. However, the number of people who died behind the wheel has actually gone down compared to last year. The problem is a dramatic increase in the number of pedestrians killed. 52 have lost their lives, compared to 38 at this point last year.
Trying to lower the number of deaths, state troopers have made it a point to stop pedestrians violating the rules of the road. “If we see a pedestrian walking in the wrong direction, walking in the road, out walking at night with dark clothing, we stop and do an educational session,” said Highway Patrol spokesman Lt. Col. Mike Oliver, “Tell them what they’re doing wrong and the dangers of their actions.”
Officials are also in the process of buying more than 40,000 reflector wrist bands to hand out to pedestrians. “We call these things ‘slap bands’ because you can slap them on your wrist,” Oliver said. The bands are being paid for with a $75,000 grant from the state Department of Transportation. He said the bands will begin arriving in October and will be distributed through local law enforcement.
The Highway Patrol also plans to begin a new media campaign that focuses on pedestrian safety.
The number of people killed in motorcycle crashes has also increased this year, from 48 to 56.
July falls in the middle of what officials call the “100 Deadly Days of Summer,” which lasts from Memorial Day to Labor Day. This timeframe traditionally has a higher number of driving fatalities, as more people tend to drive while intoxicated over the summer.
While officials say any death is too many, the number of fatalities in 2011 marks a 25-percent decline from only four years ago, when nearly 600 people were killed on the state’s highways by the end of July.
Oliver says, beginning in 2008, state troopers began to focus more on three types of driving violations: not wearing a seatbelt, DUI, and speeding. The number of people killed while intoxicated has decreased by nearly 40 percent in the past two years, which Oliver says is a sign that the crackdown is working.