In an effort to make South Carolina’s roads safer, the state Department of Transportation (DOT) unveiled a rural road safety program Thursday.
During a state Transportation Commission meeting on Thursday, Secretary of Transportation Christy Hall presented a plan to begin a reduction in the high death toll along state roads. But the plan hinges on whether new funds become available.
975 people died on South Carolina’s roads last year, according to the state Department of Public Safety. That was roughly the same as 979 deaths in 2015. 60 percent of South Carolina road fatalities since 2011 have come along rural roads.
“Nearly 30% of our rural fatal and serious injury crashes take place on just 5% of our highway system outside of our urban areas.” Hall said. “Our interstate highways and US primary routes in our rural areas are the deadliest roads in the state.”
A contributing factor, according to the DOT, is that the state spends relatively little to maintain its highways and bridges. The agency believes not doing routine maintenance such as clearing ditches, fixing potholes and replacing worn out or damaged signs can lead to fatal collisions.
Hall proposed setting aside $50 million each year to target roughly 2,000 miles of roads in the highway corridors that have the highest instances of fatal crashes. Possible safety features for those corridors could include “rumble strips” that warn a driver if their vehicle is leaving the roadway, raised or wider pavement markings, high reflective signs, guardrails, wider paved shoulders and relocating drainage ditches further away from roadways.
But she warned the agency cannot afford the program with its current budget. SCDOT has previously said it needs more than $900 million per year to keep pace with its annual road maintenance needs.