The signs are common, mostly in residential neighborhoods where they call attention to speed: “Drive like your children live here.” Perhaps it’s time for signs on all roads expanding the message: “Drive like you want to keep living here” – meaning drive like you want to stay alive.
Too many South Carolinians are not. The latest numbers from the S.C. Department of Public Safety show 758 people have been killed on S.C. highways in 2019, including five this past weekend. The toll, thankfully, is less than last year’s 822 at this time but horrific nonetheless.
Speed is a factor – and nowhere more so than the Palmetto State.
According to the most recent data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as analyzed by Driving-Tests.org, one in four fatal car crashes involves speeding. And South Carolina is the worst of the worst for speed-related crash deaths.
According to the data:
• South Carolina had the most speeding deaths per capita in 2017, with 8.28 deaths per 100,000 residents. No other state had a death rate over 6.74.
• Rural roads with speed limits of 55 account for two times as many speeding deaths as any other road type.
• Sunday is the worst day of the week for speeding deaths, and the most dangerous times are between 12 and 2 a.m. and 9 and 11 p.m.
Put the new findings on top of those from earlier this year with Esurance analyzing NHTSA data and the picture is even darker:
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• South Carolina is No. 3 for the most dangerous state for drivers with 19.7 crash fatalities per 100,000 residents.
• South Carolina has had a 22.2% increase in crash fatalities over the past five years, one of the largest increases in the nation.
• And 42% of roadway fatalities are due to speeding.
In total, according to SCDPS, there were 44,810 speed-related collisions on South Carolina roadways in 2018, and more than 36% of all fatal roadway crashes in the state were speed-related.
Other studies have shown that South Carolina motorists on average drive 10 mph over the speed limit because they believe troopers won’t stop them at that speed. Experience seems to bear that out, with interstate stops often being motorists traveling in excess of 80 mph. There also is the on-the-road and in-the-courtroom practice of reducing tickets to the lesser violation of speeding under 10 mph.
But there is no written policy on not pulling over someone exceeding the speed limit by less than 10 mph. And there certainly is no guarantee that a citation for speeding more than 10 mph will be reduced.
While it is ample punishment to many when they must fork over the fine for speeding under 10 mph and/or suffer higher insurance premiums, there are clearly situations in which the more serious speeding violation should stand.
That’s why troopers say when to make a stop is at their discretion. With most motorists exceeding the limit, it has to be.
There’s considerable difference in driving 79 mph on an interstate highway with little traffic and clear conditions than doing even 71 mph on a crowded highway with rain falling. Driving according to conditions remains a viable consideration in traffic law enforcement.
Slowing down can mean fewer accidents, fewer lives lost and less expense. And you’re not even going to lose much time.
Speeding, with the goal of making up time on the road, has a surprisingly small payback. A driver traveling 20 miles in a 60 mph zone saves only 1.5 minutes by going 65, 2.9 minutes by going 70, four minutes at 75 mph, five minutes at 80 mph and 5.9 minutes at 85 mph.
“Drive like you want to keep living here.” It’s time for South Carolinians to take the message to heart.