The S.C. Department of Public Safety on April 28 held its memorial service for those killed in 2017 traffic collisions on South Carolina roadways.
The annual event is a solemn occasion that draws hundreds of family members and friends to remember and grieve with others having suffered similar losses. In 2017, 988 motorists were killed on South Carolina roads.
“When law enforcement and first responders gather at this ceremony each year, we see the reality and enormity of losing a loved one in a motor vehicle collision,” SCDPS Director Leroy Smith said. “The pain we see on the faces of grieving families is an important reminder to us of our duty and mission to keep striving for Target Zero highway deaths.”
As the victims from 2017 were remembered, that very weekend saw seven more people lose their lives on the state’s roads. As of April 29, the state’s death toll had reached 276. The only good news in the number: The total was 52 fewer lives lost than at the same time in 2017.
Sadly, things have gotten worse. The next weekend saw 10 people die and a weekend ago, three more were killed.
But the danger on the roads is not confined to weekends. Weekdays in May have been horrible in The T&D Region.
• On May 3, a driver was killed after an SUV went into the path of a tractor-trailer near Holly Hill.
• On May 7, a mother and two children were killed on Interstate 95 in Orangeburg County when their vehicle hit an alligator and then crashed.
• On May 14, three people, including a husband and wife, died in a crash in Calhoun County.
As of May 13, SCDPS put the total number of highway deaths in the state at 322 – with 46 deaths in the two weeks since the memorial service. The total is 60 less than at the same time a year ago.
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Locally, Orangeburg County, which annually is among the counties with the highest per-capita highway deaths, had 12 deaths as of May 13. That compares to 14 a year ago.
In Calhoun County, the number of deaths stood at zero until a driver died in a May 12 crash. Three more deaths this week brings the toll to four. A year ago, one person had been killed on the county’s roads.
Bamberg County, fortunately, has had no highway deaths this year. Pray it stays that way.
With Memorial Day upcoming and the busy summer driving season ahead, we fear more tragedy is in store. Beyond the pleas for driver responsibility and advice on how to stay safe, there is little to do other than continue warning people that danger on the road is not something to take for granted. Crashes happen – and not just to someone else.
In the words of Nancy Egan of Baltimore in a letter to The T&D:
“Memorial Day will soon kick off the start of a long-awaited summer, but it also marks the first day of an especially dangerous season for driving. Warmer weather, construction, vacations and graduations will no doubt bring more congestion to the roads with that causing more crashes.
“Advanced technologies have made cars safer than ever in recent years, but vehicle crashes and fatalities are rising sharply across the country and right here in South Carolina. The National Safety Council preliminary 2017 data shows that motor vehicle deaths surpassed 40,000 for the second consecutive year in 2017 and 4.57 million people were seriously injured in motor vehicle crashes. According to the South Carolina Department of Public Safety the number of crashes involving distracted driving resulting in injuries is up by 1,000 compared to five years ago.
“Distracted driving is thought to be one of the leading causes for the rise in vehicle crashes nationwide. It’s not just because of talking and texting while driving behind the wheel. Increasingly, drivers are surfing the web, engaging on social media, streaming video and using other apps.
“As summer brings more distractions and congestion to our roads, it’s important for all drivers to understand the risks of distracted driving. Putting down the phone and eliminating other distractions while driving can prevent tragedies. We need to commit to doing that, and we need to urge our loved ones to do the same.”