Narrow, twisting rural roads with their low shoulders and scarcity of law officers on patrol are the most dangerous highways in South Carolina according to an analysis released Tuesday.
“They are probably going to remain the killing grounds for years to come” as more people move to cities and suburbs and the demand for limited highway dollars increases in urban areas, said Tom Crosby of AAA Carolinas.
The motor club on Tuesday released its study of traffic fatalities in the state for 2009, the last year for which figures are available.
It found that based on total vehicle miles driven, motorists had the highest chance of being killed in Lee County. Motorcyclists had the highest chance of being killed in Dillon County.
The analysis found that Lee County, followed by rural Marlboro, McCormick, Clarendon and Williamsburg counties accounted for 7 percent of the state’s 2009 traffic deaths but only 3 percent of the total vehicle miles driven.
Lee County’s highway fatality rate for 2009 was 4.5 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled. That compares with a statewide rate of just under two deaths per 100 million vehicles miles.
There were eight fatal traffic accidents in Lee County in 2009. That number dropped to three last year and there has been only one so far in 2011.
Greenville, Charleston and Richland counties, the state’s most populated counties with the most traffic, were the places where motorists had the greatest chance of being in a collision in 2009.
The greatest chance of suffering an injury in an accident was in Greenwood, Sumter and Marlboro counties. Motorists driving in Calhoun County had the least chance of being in an accident.
Overall, the total number of traffic deaths in the state dropped almost 3 percent from 2008 to 2009 when there were 894 fatalities.
Horry County, the center of the state’s $18 billion tourism industry, had the highest number of total traffic deaths with 64. That’s about 7.3 percent of the state’s total fatalities in a county that had about 6 percent of the total miles traveled.
Transportation Secretary Robert St. Onge says deaths on rural roads can be reduced by people slowing down, wearing seat belts, paying attention and not drinking and driving.
Crosby said not paying attention seems to be the biggest problem on rural roads.
“The majority of accidents occur within seven miles of a person’s home,” he said. “People who live on rural roads tend to be so familiar with them they tend to relax their attention. Their familiarity breeds that lack of alertness you might have on an unfamiliar road.”
He added that drinking also tends to be involved more in rural crashes.
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