The news from the road gets worse.
As the nation inches toward the end of summer and Labor Day, a new report reflects a trend that could make the holiday weekend the deadliest since 2008.
The National Safety Council is predicting that 438 people will be killed on the nation's roads over the three-day Labor Day weekend that begins Sept. 2.
The NSC forecast, as reported by The Associated Press, is based on what happened on U.S. roads in the first six months of the year. Traffic fatalities were up 9 percent through June 30 compared with the same period last year.
That continues a surge in deaths that began two years ago as the economy improved and travel picked up. An estimated 19,100 people were killed on U.S. roads from January through June, said the council, a congressionally chartered nonprofit that gets its data from state authorities. That's 18 percent more than two years ago at the six-month mark. About 2.2 million people also were seriously injured in the first half of this year.
At that rate, annual deaths could exceed 40,000 fatalities this year for the first time in nine years, the council said. More than 35,000 people were killed on U.S. roads last year, making it the deadliest driving year since 2008, when more than 37,000 were killed.
In South Carolina, the news is better for 2016 – but not a lot.
As of Aug. 21, 600 people had been killed on the highways, down from 608 a year ago. But 2015 deaths were up 15 percent from the year before. And 600 deaths is more than two people a day.
Locally, Orangeburg County has 20 deaths in 2016, up from 19 a year ago. At four, Bamberg County has doubled its 2015 toll. Calhoun County has had five people die in crashes compared to nine at this time in 2015.
Jonathan Adkins, executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association, which represents state highway safety offices, said the situation is “really getting to the crisis level.”
He is right.
It has been assumed that technological advances like more automated safety features in cars — and ultimately self-driving cars — would go a long way toward solving the problem of traffic fatalities since driver errors are responsible for 94 percent of all deaths, Adkins said.
"But we are still a long way away from fully autonomous vehicles and need to really hone in on the unsafe driver behaviors that are still so pervasive, including distraction, drowsy and drunk driving, speeding, and failure to buckle up," he said.
As quoted by The AP, Deborah A.P. Hersman, the safety council's president and CEO, offers words for every driver: "Our complacency is killing us. Americans should demand change to prioritize safety actions and protect ourselves from one of the leading causes of preventable death."