Lack of emergency lanes on bridges causes concerns

FLORENCE COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - Several bridges throughout the state of South Carolina don't have an emergency lane, often times making it difficult for first responders to get to you at the time you need them most.

Owner of East Coast Towing, Charles Knotts said when his company gets called to bridges that don't have emergency lanes, not only are his employees at risk but drivers are too.

"It's a matter of somebody's life. Plain and Simple," Knotts said.

Knotts said he fears for his life and others when he gets a call for a stranded driver on a bridge that doesn't have emergency lanes.

"One night I had a stranded motorist right there on the interstate and it was about I'd say 11:30 at night. No lights on the bridge whatsoever. No median to speak of. Maybe two feet on the side of the road, which is nothing because I mean a vehicle don't even take up part of that. I had to have the customer stand out there behind the vehicle to notify any cars that were coming up behind us that we were there," Knotts said.

Kady Morris' life changed instantly because there were no emergency lanes on a bridge. Morris' husband James Coffey was killed on the Great Pee Dee River Bridge in Florence while he was trying to help a disabled car. Coffey worked as a tow truck employee. Now, Morris is taking her fight for changes to state legislators.

"My goals are working with state officials- trying to get a sign put up, a big sign that could be activated by emergency personnel. So, you know if there's an accident or a stranded motorist in the right hand lane," Morris said.

Bridges without emergency lanes also hamper fire, police and EMS vehicles from getting through when they're trying to answer a call.

"They have to stop traffic, come up the wrong side of the bridge or try to maneuver to get around the bridge or around traffic. It's just a major time delay," Morris said.

Morris said local officials have agreed with her that South Carolina's bridges need work, but finding the money to fund them is nearly impossible.

Both Knotts and Morris said they want to get the word out for drivers to be more cautious of what's going on in front of them while they're driving. Knotts said often times, drivers don't acknowledge the meaning of the amber lights on tow trucks.

"You see the lights- move over because we could be going to assist your family member," Knotts said.

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