Drivers ask for clarity on Highway 501 traffic lane

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) Several accidents in the same area of Highway 501 in Horry County have some people calling for change. They are worried about a beachbound section of the highway between Carolina Forest Boulevard and the Tanger Outlets mall.

"It's a pretty frequent occasion," said Bill Kirby about accidents in the area.

He works at Grand Strand Nissan in an area were the beachbound side of Highway 501 has a third lane for traffic. His coworker Vito Marchiano agreed that accidents have become more and more concerning in the area.

"It's going to come down to a point where somebody's going to get hurt," Marchiano said.

Broken and left behind car parts on the side of the road make it obvious several accidents have happened in the area. Kirby and Marchiano said one accident ended with a car upside down at the bottom of the ditch.

Marchiano said problems come from the extra lane of traffic.

"So people don't have to sit in traffic they're jumping out and riding this third lane, and obviously somebody coming in and leaving [a business along the highway] would get hit or have a high possibility of getting hit," he said.

While some drivers do use the lane just to merge in and out of traffic to get to and from businesses, others use it as a way to get around slowed or stopped traffic. Kirby and Marchiano said that has caused accidents several times when a car from the other direction turns through two lanes of stopped traffic and then gets hit in the third lane.

"A lot of times people come across. They don't even know that third lane is there, and they just see nice people letting them across they don't think anything of it, and the next thing you know another accident," Kirby said.

Kirby and Marchiano have both been involved in accidents when someone either moved into the third lane or was traveling in the third lane but could not be seen.

The Highway Patrol has said the lane should be considered an extra lane for normal traffic. Department of Transportation planner Mike Barbee agreed. Barbee said he did not know the original intent for the extra lane, but he said it was long enough to be considered part of the overall Highway 501 traffic flow. Barbee and Highway Patrol spokesman Sonny Collins said there is no indication on the road that it is only to be used for merging.

Kirby and Marchiano said if the lane is indeed supposed to be used for normal traffic it needs more white dividing lines in some spots. In some spots the dividing lines to differentiate the third lane go away.

"There's no dotted line showing whoever's crossing in or leaving that that's an actual drive on lane."

Barbee said the regional DOT office in Florence would have to look into if more line painting is needed.

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