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The first day of a new year. New hope. New possibilities. And the end to another deadly year on South Carolina highways.

Numbers from the New Year’s holiday weekend have not been released by the S.C. Department of Public Safety, but South Carolina entering the last weekend of the year was on pace to exceed the total number of traffic deaths for 2017. And that year was horrible.

As of the end of the Christmas holiday travel period at 11:59 p.m. Dec. 25, 979 people had died on the state’s roads. That’s three more than at the same time a year ago. Five people died during the Christmas travel period that began on Dec. 21.

In Orangeburg County, the toll is particularly deadly, with 40 people having been killed in 2018 compared to 28 a year ago.

There may be no more important resolution for 2019 than to be a safe driver. The real issue is getting people to realize they are not. People tend to think some else, or everyone else, is the problem on the road.

Without attempting to tell you whether you are or are not a safe driver, we’ll go proactive and offer Nationwide Insurance’s top 4 driving safety tips.

Focus on driving

• Keep 100 percent of your attention on driving at all times – no multitasking.

• Don’t use your phone or any other electronic device while driving.

• Slow down. Speeding gives you less time to react and increases the severity of an accident.

Drive “defensively”

• Be aware of what other drivers around you are doing, and expect the unexpected.

• Assume other motorists will do something crazy, and always be prepared to avoid it.

• Keep a 2-second cushion between you and the car in front of you.

• Make that 4 seconds if the weather is bad.

Make a safe driving plan

• Build time into your trip schedule to stop for food, rest breaks, phone calls or other business.

• Adjust your seat, mirrors and climate controls before putting the car in gear.

• Pull over to eat or drink. It takes only a few minutes.

Practice safety

• Secure cargo that may move around while the vehicle is in motion.

• Don’t attempt to retrieve items that fall to the floor.

• Have items needed within easy reach – such as toll fees, toll cards and garage passes.

• Always wear your seat belt and drive sober and drug-free.

Yes, you’ve likely read all of these before. But do you drive safely?

In South Carolina, the death toll should tell you there is plenty of reason to do so. With two to three people a day dying on the highways, the need for a safer new year is self-evident.

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