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EDITORIAL: No vaccine for continuing highway deaths
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EDITORIAL: No vaccine for continuing highway deaths

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The danger on the road has not subsided even with less traffic amid the pandemic. Just this past weekend, a fatality occurred in a horrific accident on Interstate 26 when a car was traveling in the wrong direction and a head-on crash resulted.

That and another weekend traffic death brought Orangeburg County’s total fatalities on the road in 2020 to 24. Around the state, nine other people were killed over the weekend. The South Carolina toll for the year is nearing 700 at 691.

Sadly, the carnage is not new. South Carolina’s roads have been among the deadliest in the country for years. has ranked the Palmetto State as the No. 1 most dangerous state in which to drive. The ranking comes from examining National Highway Traffic Safety and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety data. States are ranked by 2018 fatalities per 100 million vehicle travel miles. The data was released in 2019.

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The findings for South Carolina:

  • Fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles: 1.83 (-54% change since 1975)
  • Total fatalities: 1,037 (26% increase since 1975)
  • Percent of fatalities related to speeding: 43.1% (#5 highest of all states)
  • Percent of fatalities with a driver over .08 BAC: 28.1% (#25 highest of all states)
  • Deaths by road user type: 44.1% car, 36.1% light trucks, 2.5% large trucks, 16.7% motorcycles, 0.7% other or unknown

But let’s try to be optimistic by at least looking at the big picture. Car crashes across America are killing fewer people — especially children.

In 2018, yearly deaths from motor vehicle accidents fell by nearly 1,000 people from the previous year, and with a drop of more than 10% among children, according to 2018 data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Fatalities related to speeding saw an almost 6% decline. Deaths from drunk driving dropped about 4% and made up just over a quarter of traffic deaths, the lowest percentage in more than 35 years.

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Those statistics come even as people drive more and are part of a 40-year downward trend. Experts point to a raft of safety measures, from increased use of seat belts to vehicle improvements such as air bags and electronic stability control.

There are, however, some sober warnings among the numbers. More than 6,000 pedestrians died, the most since 1990, and motorcycle fatalities were up by almost 5%. The same was true for bicyclist deaths, which were up more than 6%, as well as an almost 1% increase for the occupants of large trucks.

For those living in cities, there is a trend to keep an eye on: Over the last decade, traffic deaths in urban neighborhoods have been on the rise, and have surpassed deaths in rural areas since 2016. Among the kinds of accidents that have become deadlier in cities, pedestrian deaths were up 69%, bicycling deaths were up 48% and motorcycle deaths were up 33%.

Amid all the headlines about deaths from COVID-19, Americans, and South Carolinians for certain, must come to grips with the danger on the roads. A vaccine is expected to help end the threat from the virus -- sooner or later. What will it take to curb deaths on the road?

The full study can be found at



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