Highway deaths up across the state

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – State roads in Horry County were some of the deadliest in the Palmetto State last year.

There were 47 fatalities in 2012, rounding out the top five counties for most deaths in South Carolina according to the latest figures released by the South Carolina Department of Public Safety.

Two categories showed a significant increase in the number of deaths. One of those categories, the number of people with access to seat belts who died unbelted. Another alarming trend is the number of pedestrians who died while crossing state highways.

According to Lance Corporal Sonny Collins with the South Carolina Highway Patrol (SCHP), most pedestrian deaths happened at nighttime. It's also common to see pedestrians who were struck and killed, were actually intoxicated at the time or had been drinking.

SCHP considers pedestrians, bikers and motorcyclist all vulnerable users of roadways. The recent statistics show in 2012 there were also more deaths involving motorcyclists and bicyclists.

In all three categories, the number of deaths has been on the rise over the past several years. Collins says in 2013, troopers will continue to combat these kinds of highway fatalities, especially when it comes to people crossing busy roads. The department will step up their S.E.E. campaign which stands for stop, educate, and enforce.

"We found that most pedestrians just do not understand they can't be in the road, through doing safety talks around the area. We found that a lot of people think pedestrians have the right away, and they do not except in crosswalks and intersections. This is an education campaign and we want to make sure we get them doing the right thing," said Collins.

More than half of the people involved in a deadly crash in 2012 were not wearing a safety belt. That's a 10 percent jump from 2011 and a total of 319 lives lost. Wearing a safety belt is a primary law in South Carolina, which means every person inside of a vehicle is required to buckle up.

Collins says there have been improvements made with seatbelt usage over the last few years, but not enough. Collins says this year it is something troopers will be looking for every day they are out working. Collins points out, contrary to what some believe, the bottom line is that seat belts save lives.

"They're concerned about being trapped after a collision and stuff like that. But we try to just tell people that the best place for you is to remain in that car during a crash. If you come out of a car during a crash, you're up to seven times more likely to die in that crash," explained Collins.

A safety belt violation citation will cost an individual $25.

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