More people died while walking along South Carolina's roads this year than in any year since 2006, and police believe the bad economy may be partially to blame.
Pedestrian deaths number 105 so far this year, up from 84 deaths last year and 83 in 2009. S.C. Highway Patrol Capt. Chris Williamson said the financial climate likely played a role in the incidents.
"In this tough economy -- with repossession, people losing their vehicles and people not having jobs -- you'll see people more apt to walk in order save on gas," Williamson said. "As a law enforcement community, we need to come together so we don't have the same numbers we saw in 2006 and 2007."
In 2006, 119 people died walking along state roads. That number held at 100 deaths the next year.
Troopers and police stepped up their patrols in high-foot-traffic areas to fight those statistics. They restarted that push this year.
The S.C. Highway Patrol rolled out a program called "Stop, Educate, Enforce," meaning that officers speak to people out walking and tell them about safe travel or, in cases of intoxicated pedestrians, take them off the roads.
In about a month, troopers plan to hand out 50,000 reflective wristbands to people they meet walking along the way.
The Highway Patrol studied pedestrian accidents between 2005 and 2007 and found that the most commonly hit walkers were men older than 51. Not surprisingly, rural, poorly lit roads proved the most dangerous places, and Fridays and Saturdays between 6 p.m. and midnight seemed the deadliest times for pedestrians.
Alcohol often factored into those incidents.
North Charleston police Deputy Chief Reggie Burgess said officers intend to pay close attention to major intersections around the city, including Ashley Phosphate and Stall roads; Rivers Avenue and Remount Road; Otranto Road and Rivers Avenue; and Montague Avenue and International Boulevard. He said people on foot sometimes take chances when forced to cross several lanes of traffic.
"We need to be in those places," Burgess said, "so the walking community is aware law enforcement is there."