Woman dies in 3-car wreck on Ashley River Road

Cars travel toward Summerville on Ashley River Road. A 23-year-old woman died and two more people were injured in a head-on collision Tuesday morning on the road, and motorists who frequent the route say it's a hazardous highway.

Grace Beahm

SUMMERVILLE -- Allison Cunningham said she still likes to give her husband a hard time for choosing a house in West Ashley without first test-driving Ashley River Road, the two-lane highway she uses on her commute to downtown Charleston.

Cunningham, a veteran of highways in Washington, D.C., and Houston, said she considers the often-congested road her "arch-enemy."

"It's miserable and frustrating," she said Tuesday, hours after a 23-year-old Summerville woman driving to work on the road died in a three-car wreck.

Whitney N. Simmons died instantly after a GMC Envoy heading toward Summerville apparently ran off the road and over-corrected, striking her Honda head-on at about 7:45 a.m. near Middleton Place, Dorchester County Coroner Chris Nisbet said.

The Envoy was then hit by a Jeep that was traveling behind the Honda, Nisbet said.

The driver of the Envoy, Rocio Macias, 33, of James Island, was flown by helicopter to Medical University Hospital, said S.C. Highway Patrol Cpl. Paul Brouthers. She was listed in fair condition Tuesday night, said Kim Draughn, the hospital's public information director.

The driver of the Jeep, 28-year-old Patrice Gordon of Summerville, was taken to Summerville Medical Center by ambulance. Information on her condition was unavailable.

Macias is charged with driving left of center, Brouthers said.

Brouthers said the road, which is S.C. Highway 61, isn't any more deadly than other Lowcountry roads, but motorists say the tight, tree-lined stretch between Summerville and Charleston leaves little room for error, and no room for inattentive or impatient drivers.

Tessa Spencer said too many drivers are impatient. She said she was driving the road to Summerville on Monday when she saw a car easily traveling 70 mph passing slower cars, nearly causing multiple head-on collisions.

"If you're going the speed limit, nine times out of 10, they will go around you," she said. "They treat it like a racetrack. You can't be distracted, you can't look down, because there is no shoulder."

Thomas J. Klich said he too has seen many close calls while commuting from Givhans to Mount Pleasant.

"I'm always nervous going down that road," he said. "The trees are right next to the road. If you glance at your phone or anything for a second and you leave the road, you're dead."

Drivers said the road bottlenecks in spots, especially in school zones and four-way stops. This can make it difficult to even get onto the road, and causes drivers to become frustrated and angry.

"People will have tremendous road rage when you try to obey the school-zone speeds," Cunningham said. "Clearly there is a demand for more access or more lanes. It can't keep up with its growth."

Residents have debated extending the Glenn McConnell Parkway from West Ashley to Summerville for years, but no plans have ever been finalized.

Regional transportation and Dorchester County plans call for extending the parkway to S.C. Highway 165 west of several planned developments that would add thousands of additional vehicles to the area. The extension would parallel Highway 61 and alleviate much of the traffic on the scenic road.

Conservation groups are concerned for that road's impact on wetland areas around Rantowles Creek.