S.C.'s 770 traffic deaths in 2010 are 28-year low
COLUMBIA -- It appears deaths on South Carolina highways in 2010 have plunged to the lowest total in nearly 30 years.
The South Carolina Highway Patrol unofficially reported 770 traffic fatalities in the state last year, a sharp decline from the more than 880 deaths reported in 2009, and the lowest total since 730 people died on the state's roads in 1982.
Public Safety Department Director Mark Keel told The State that he credits a campaign to crack down on speeding,seat belt violations and drunken driving for a three-year decline in fatalities.
"This is the right formula, and these are the right prongs of the offensive," Keel told the newspaper.
Troopers are going to start concentrating more on distracted driving as well as emphasizing safety for pedestrians and bicyclists and young drivers to try and keep the fatality rate dropping, Keel said.
"It's not just texting and cell phones. It's people eating, talking to kids, everything," Keel said. "We got to get people focused on paying attention when they're driving."
The decline in deaths comes after South Carolina passed a stronger seat belt law five years ago. In 2006, a survey found about 72 percent of the state's drivers wore their seat belts. A survey in 2010 found about 85 percent of drivers buckled up.
The Highway Patrol said more than half of all motor vehicle deaths in 2010 involved someone not wearing a seat belt, which doesn't surprise Richland County Coroner Gary Watts.
"So many of our deaths come from people being ejected. Dying in a car crash is largely preventable," Watts said.
Charleston County had the most traffic deaths with 47 through midnight Thursday. Greenville County had 46, Horry County had 45, Spartanburg County had 43 and Richland and Orangeburg counties reported 39 highway fatalities.