Traffic deaths in South Carolina are down this year compared with last year, at least so far.
According to the S.C. Department of Public Safety, as of Sunday, 305 people have died on state highways compared with 387 deaths this time last year.
Sgt. Bob Beres, commander of the Office of Community Relations for the S.C. Highway Patrol, said this decrease is a result of increased enforcement and campaign advertisements.
“They’re listening to the message and seeing it. It’s more of a personal responsibility. People are saying ‘I don’t want to be a statistic.’ ”
Not all counties have seen a decrease in traffic fatalities, but Charleston, Berkeley and Dorchester County have. There have been 17 deaths in Charleston County compared with 24 this time last year; 13 in Berkeley County compared with 14; and six in Dorchester County compared with last year’s eight.
Charleston County has the fifth-highest number of traffic deaths so far this year, after Richland County (29), Greenville County (23), Horry County (20) and Florence County (18).
Beres said drivers are seeing more troopers stopping violators in addition to nighttime seat belt checks. The “Look” billboard campaign has also been reminding drivers to look out for “vulnerable roadway users” like pedestrians, mo-ped drivers, bicyclists and motorcyclists.
Phil Riley, director of the Office of Highway Safety and Justice Programs for the Department of Public Safety, said the $140,000 campaign is funded by a federal grant given to the state for highway safety education. Of the funding, $40,000 is being used for billboards on pedestrian, mo-ped and bicyclist awareness. The remaining $100,000 is being used for radio ads and billboards for motorcycle awareness.
This time last year there were 128 highway deaths related to vulnerable drivers. This year there are 92, about a 28 percent decrease.
“We try to put our resources into where the problem is at,” Riley said. “We want to target those groups and try to get word out to the motoring public to be on the lookout.”
Riley said that as of Wednesday state highway fatalities are down 80 percent compared to this time last year.
“The public is doing their part by slowing down and making the right decisions behind the wheel. Working together — we will save lives,” Beres said.
Reach Jade McDuffie at 937-5560 or firstname.lastname@example.org.