The number of people killed on South Carolina highways has risen by triple digits since last year.
The state Department of Public Safety (SCDPS) announced in preliminary reports that 942 people have died on South Carolina roads through Monday, compared with 816 deaths at the same point in 2014. This year is already guaranteed to be the highest for fatalities since 2007 — when more than 1,060 people lost their lives on state roads.
Highway Patrol Lance Cpl. David Jones attributes the rise in fatalities to a decrease in fuel prices and an increase in temperatures. “We’ve seen warmer weather across South Carolina this year, which allows motorcyclist and pedestrians to be out more,” he told South Carolina Radio Network. “We’ve also seen where gas prices have had a major decrease compared to years past. Meaning it’s more economical for cars to be on the roadway.”
SCDPS reports 117 pedestrians have been killed this year compared to 109 in 2014; 132 motorcyclists have died compared to 88 in 2014; and 14 bicyclists have died this year, remaining the same as last year.
More than half of motor vehicle occupants who died in 2015 were not wearing seat belts, according to SCDPS data. Totals on the rate of alcohol-related highway fatalities will not be released until next year, but Jones said previous estimates have found roughly half of all roadway deaths involved alcohol use by at least one driver.
To raise awareness of alcohol fatalities, Jones said SCDPS runs social media and TV campaigns that try to educate motorist on the dangers of driving while impaired. Troopers also maintain verified Twitter accounts to keep in contact with any citizens who may need assistance.
Increased law enforcement presence and “Click It or Ticket” campaigns are also ways troopers have tried to lower the number of highway fatalities. But Jones said for there to be a significant drop in alcohol related accidents, there needs to be a change in driver’s attitudes towards wearing seatbelts and driving while under the influence.
“Our main focus is to get some of these motorists to take the personal responsibility to not get behind the wheel after drinking and to make sure they buckle up if they are going to be driving and make sure there passengers are buckled up too,” said Jones.
Jones said troopers often encounter impaired drivers when damage has already been done. He suggest to change this the community should also take responsibility for others’ lives by intervening when someone is about to put their life in danger.
Jones said taking someone’s keys if they’ve had too much to drink, calling a taxi, or dialing *47 to dispatch law enforcement are all suitable options.
Kimberly Washington filed this report