Another deadly weekend on the roads of the Palmetto State, where 10 more people lost their lives in crashes. The trend points to more bad days to come.
The South Carolina Department of Public Safety reports that as of Oct. 8, 740 people have died on South Carolina highways. That is better than the 774 highway deaths at the same time a year ago but horrific nonetheless.
South Carolina continues to be near the top of the deadliest roads list, with 1,000 people killed a year ago. Around the nation, more people are dying despite high-profile emphasis on driver behavior, law enforcement campaigns and major safety improvements in vehicles.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports traffic fatalities rose 5.6 percent in 2016. There were 37,461 people killed on U.S. roads, the highest number of deaths since 2007. The fatality rate was 1.18 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, a 2.6 percent increase from the previous year.
Traffic deaths have been increasing since late 2014 as gas prices have fallen and people started driving more. In 2016, the total number of miles driven in the U.S. rose 2.2 percent.
Last year's increase in deaths follows an 8.4 percent surge in deaths in 2015. The last time the United States had similar back-to-back increases of that magnitude was more than five decades ago. South Carolina has seen a similar spike, with 2015 and 2016 deaths being nearly 20 percent more than the toll in 2014.
While most people killed on the road are travelers in motor vehicles, there is another disturbing trend in the national and state numbers.
Motorcyclist deaths were up 5.1 percent, reaching their highest level — 5,286 killed — since 2008.
Unfortunately, South Carolina is again a leader where it does not want to be, with the toll making it among the worst places for motorcyclists.
The 135 motorcycle deaths in 2016 were the most this century in the state. According to SCDPS, so far in 2017, motorcycle deaths total 93 compared to 114 at the same point in 2016.
The trend is not good. Statistics reported by The Post and Courier of Charleston show the state’s five-year average in motorcycle deaths is the second highest among Southeastern states. Only Mississippi had a higher rate, and it has the fewest motorcycles registered among the states in the region.
Times also are bad for pedestrians and bicyclists.
Around the country, pedestrian deaths last year hit their highest level since 1990, with 5,987 people killed. That represents a 9 percent increase from the previous year. Bicycle deaths increased 1.3 percent and were at their highest number — 840 killed — since 1991.
Deaths among pedestrians in South Carolina in 2016 rose from 125 in 2015 to 137, and 25 bicyclists were killed, an increase from 16 in 2015.
So far this year, pedestrian deaths stand at 104, compared to 110 at the same time in 2016; and 14 bicyclists have died compared to 21 in 2016.
Deborah Hersman, CEO of the National Safety Council, said pedestrians "are unprotected and, in most cases, outnumbered.
“We must not forget that the risks we are all facing extend to the sidewalks too," she said. "Everyone deserves safe passage, and these numbers are yet another indication that we must do more to keep each other safe."
Whether people are in a motor vehicle, on a motorcycle or bicycle, or moving about as a pedestrian, the potential threat of death and injury should be enough to get every American’s attention.
We must do better. No one wants to be a victim or lose a friend or family member.