Report calling SC drivers among worst in nation not really a surprise to many

  • Posted: Monday, December 16, 2013 6:37 a.m., Updated: Wednesday, December 18, 2013 12:53 p.m.
South Carolina drivers are second worst in the nation, with distracted driving leading thel list of reasons for it.

Are South Carolina roads full of some of the country's crummiest drivers?

Yes, according to a new report that ranks Palmetto State drivers as the second worst in the nation.

The website carinsurancecomparison.com used five criteria to determine which states have the worst drivers in the nation: fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, failure to obey, drunk driving, tickets and careless driving.

The end result is a list dominated by southern states. The No. 1 state? Louisiana, which was followed by South Carolina, Mississippi, Texas, Alabama and Florida.

The results didn't surprise Angela Daley of AAA Carolinas, which also monitors traffic safety data and pushes for changes to make roads safer.

"When we look at the overall data for drunk drivers and for fatal crashes, it (South Carolina) is usually near the top," she said.

The report specifically cited the state's relatively high drunk driving rating, which looks at the percentage of fatalities that involve alcohol. That took South Carolina from the number 30 position all the way to number 49, second worst in the nation.

Also, South Carolina's careless driving rate decreased from third best to 50th worst in one year, moving its overall ranking from No. 11 to No. 2 this year, the report said. Daley said that jump might stem from the state Legislature's failure to ban texting while driving.

"That ties into distracted driving - you're looking down at the phone, and you're not seeing someone crossing the street," she said. "South Carolina is one of the last states in the country not to have a ban at all, even for young drivers, so that's definitely a concern."

Some municipalities such as Mount Pleasant and Charleston have passed their own bans.

Sgt. Bob Beres of the S.C. Department of Public Safety said he wasn't familiar with the website's study and could not comment on its findings, but he said the state's traffic safety is getting better.

So far this year, 714 people have died on South Carolina roadways, but at this same point in the year in 2007, there were 1,038 fatalities. Compared to last year, the state has seen 108 fewer traffic fatalities so far.

Beres credited the state's recent education and enforcement campaigns, such as Sober or Slammer, increasing awareness of motorcyclists and pedestrians and encouraging high school students not to text and drive.

"We're doing our part, but we're also asking the public to do their part," he said. "Obviously, one fatality is too many."

Even though 41 percent of the state's traffic fatalities involve alcohol, the total numbers are dropping. Between 2007 and 2012, South Carolina also saw a 23 percent drop in alcohol-impaired driving fatalities, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Agency.

Daley noted the state's drunk driving fatalities have dropped, but she said more enforcement - and stiffer penalties for multiple offenders - would help lower the numbers even more.

Most who commented about South Carolina's second-worst ranking on postandcourier.com said they weren't surprised by South Carolina's second-worst ranking. Charleston County GOP Chairman John Steinberger said he sees a lot of road rage, adding, "People need to calm down, slow down and keep the roads safe."

Another commenter quipped: "We don't drive, we aim."

Five months before the state's poor ranking was revealed, one South Carolina man recorded hours of bad driving - mostly around the Columbia area -and posted some of his worst examples on YouTube.

Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.

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