New numbers released from the South Carolina Department of Public Safety on Tuesday show that 975 people had died on state roadways in 2016.
That number, updated as of midnight December 31, was practically the same as 979 deaths reported along Palmetto State roads in 2015. However, both numbers were the highest in nearly a decade. From 2009-2014, the number of annual fatalities in South Carolina did not top 900, but the number has jumped up the past two years.
Highway Patrol troopers said some of the increase is likely due to increased driving from a stronger economy and relatively low gas prices compared to the late 2000s.
“They’re more apt to actually getting in their vehicles and traveling places,” Lance Corp. Matt Southern said. “Of course, when you see more people on the roadways, the chances for crashes to occur is naturally a little bit greater.
Southern also noted that more than half (51%) of the victims who had been in motor vehicles were not wearing seatbelts. In addition to the vehicle deaths, 137 pedestrians, 135 motorcyclists and 25 bicyclers also died last year. The pedestrian and bicycling deaths rose in 2016, while motorcyclists fatalities dropped slightly.
Despite the high numbers, the number of fatalities remains below 2007 levels of 1,077 deaths.