S.C. roads rank as the deadliest in the nation, and the most dangerous routes lie outside of metro areas, state Transportation Secretary Christy Hall told DOT commissioners on Thursday.
Making roads in rural areas safer should be the top priority of any new money that the S.C. Department of Transportation should receive from the General Assembly, Hall added.
“South Carolina has the deadliest roads in the nation,” Hall said. “Nearly 30% of our rural fatal and serious injury crashes take place on just 5% of our highway system outside of our urban areas. Our interstate highways and U.S. primary routes in our rural areas are the deadliest roads in the state.”
If the General Assembly comes through with a long-term road funding plan, Hall recommended to commissioners that the Transportation Department could launch a 10-year program costing $50 million a year to reduce deaths on the targeted rural roads.
In 2016, South Carolina recorded 975 highway fatalities, down slightly from 979 deaths in 2015. However, the state has seen the highway death rate climb dramatically from 823 fatalities in 2014 and 767 in 2013.
Sifting through the data, staffers identified nearly 2,000 miles (1,957) of the roads — interstates, U.S. highways and S.C. roads — that are the worst of the worst.
About 30% of fatalities on the targeted roads are the result of vehicles running off the pavement, Hall said. About 34% of those deaths are caused by the vehicle striking an object such as a tree or utility pole, Hall said.
Remedies include installing rumble strips to warn motorists that they’re driving off the road, raising pavement markings, installing highly reflective signs and wider pavement markings, building guardrails, using specialized pavement treatments, widening or paving shoulders, widening clear zones adjacent to the roadways and relocating drainage ditches farther from roadways.
Making the roads and highways in rural areas of the state safer will require everyone’s cooperation, including state and local law enforcement and drivers, Hall said.
“If all of us work together and do our part, we can make South Carolina’s roads safer,” Hall said.