Fatalities on the rise in Berkeley, Dorchester; Highway Patrol warns to buckle up

Traffic fatalities in Berkeley and Dorchester counties are on the rise, according to information released Monday by the S.C. Department of Public Safety.

From Jan. 1 through July 5, 13 people died on Dorchester County roads, up from seven in 2014 and six in 2013. Sixteen people have died so far this year in vehicle crashes on Berkeley County roads, up from 12 in 2014 and 14 in 2013.

Charleston County vehicle fatalities numbers are down this year to 20; there were 25 fatalities by this time last year and 20 in 2013.

The department reports that five people were killed across the state over the Fourth of July holiday weekend, compared with 10 last year during the same weekend. None of the five fatalities were reported in the tri-county area.

As of July 5, 442 people have died on South Carolina highways, according to DPS. During the same time period in 2014, there were 391 highway deaths.

According to the same data, the number of pedestrian, motorcyclist and bicyclist deaths across the state have also risen. Through midnight July 5, 49 pedestrians have died

Of the motorists who have died this year, about half were not wearing seat belts.

Sgt. Bob Beres with S.C. Highway Patrol said the top three causes of fatalities are not wearing seat belts, speeding and driving under the influence, in no particular order.

“In 21 years, I’ve never unbuckled a dead person,” he said. “It takes two seconds to put on (a seat belt), it doesn’t cost anything and there’s a good chance it will save your life.”

Beres said troopers have recently partnered with Chick-fil-A to give out coupons to the restaurant as a reward for drivers they see buckled up. He said troopers are doing what they can to reach a goal of zero fatalities across the state.

“I know our overall fatality numbers would be a lot less if people just took the time to buckle up,” he added.

Reach Melissa Boughton at 937-5594 or at Twitter.com/mboughton.