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EDITORIAL: More travel in S.C. adds to the danger

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Statistics from the National Safety Council show that in 2020, 4.8 million Americans were seriously injured in car crashes. And where you live in America matters to your risk.

South Carolinians are accustomed to seeing our state ranked among the most dangerous places to drive, with an annual per-capita highway death rate that is the highest or near the top among states.

Ahead of the holiday travel season, upliftlegalfunding.com assessed a range of driving variables using a gradient boost model to establish the relative probability of having a fatal car crash in each American state. South Carolina ranks 13th with a 1.2003% probability of a fatal car crash. By way of comparison, the state with the highest probability of a fatal crash is Idaho at 1.7312%. The lowest probability is California at 0.1312%.

This week will see an uptick in traffic, though a survey done for the American Hotel & Lodging Association by Morning Consult found that 60% of Americans are unlikely to travel for Thanksgiving or Christmas. In addition to continuing COVID concerns, gas prices are a factor.

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The survey found that 29% of Americans are likely to travel for Thanksgiving and 33% are likely to travel for Christmas — an increase from 21% and 24%, respectively, compared to 2020. Those who do plan to travel over the holidays expect to drive, but high gas prices may dampen those plans.

Key survey findings include:

• Just one in three Americans plans to travel for Christmas (33% likely to travel, 59% unlikely), and even fewer plan to travel for Thanksgiving (29% likely, 61% unlikely)

• 68% of Thanksgiving travelers plan to stay with family or friends, while 22% plan to stay in a hotel

• 66% of Christmas travelers plan to stay with family or friends, while 23% plan to stay in a hotel

• 52% of Americans say they plan to take fewer trips and 53% plan to take shorter trips due to rising gas prices

• Leisure travelers are making several adjustments to their travel plans based on the current state of the pandemic, including only traveling within driving distance (58%), taking fewer trips (48%), and taking shorter trips (46%)

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• Among parents with children under the age of 12, 41% say the availability of vaccines for kids ages 5-11 will make them more likely to travel

• 68% of Thanksgiving travelers and 64% of Christmas travelers plan to drive, compared to 11% and 14%, respectively, who plan to fly

South Carolina may be an exception when it comes to holiday travel, with AAA reporting that total travel figures are only 2% below prepandemic levels. AAA predicts nearly 753,000 South Carolinians will travel for Thanksgiving, a 13% rebound from the total number of travelers during the 2020 holiday.

Against the backdrop of the risk of fatal crashes, safety must be high on the list for South Carolinians.

Take extra measures to ensure safety on the highway. We join AAA Carolinas in recommending:

• Drivers take a break every two hours or 150 miles. Get out and stretch to re-energize your brain as well as pump blood to your muscles.

• On long trips, switch drivers regularly, preferably with someone who has been sitting in the back seat. Passengers sitting in the front seat with the driver are paying attention to the road as well and can experience just as much fatigue as the driver.

• Add about 15 minutes to every hour the trip typically takes to drive cautiously with the increased traffic.

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• Get a vehicle checkup before hitting the road. Be sure to check fluids and your tires, especially the spare tire.

• Follow the rules of the road — obey the speed limit, wear seat belts and never drink and drive.

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