Last year, South Carolina's population grew by 51,422, positioning it among the nation's fastest-growing states.

With more people, the state sees more cars and more students, many of them walking to school.

For that reason alone, the S.C. Department of Transportation should make it a priority to measure how safe state roads are for vehicles, bicyclists and pedestrians, and how that safety can be improved. By the same token, counties and municipalities should be doing their own studies.

But there are other reasons for vigilance. In 2013, 93 pedestrians were injured in Charleston County and 12 were killed. In Berkeley, 22 were injured. In Dorchester County, two were killed and 22 injured.

On today's Commentary page, Ron Brinson puts a face on statistics related to pedestrian fatalities.

And Rep. Wendell Gilliard, D-Charleston, is making sure the Legislature is aware of the two college students who, in separate accidents, were killed while trying to walk across the Septima P. Clark Parkway in Charleston.

The crosswalk could have been a factor. And because motorists often drive too fast there, it is extra dangerous.

Mr. Gilliard has asked the Legislature to allocate $10,000 to study the crosswalk and design something safer.

It certainly needs to be studied, and made as safe as possible. But it is troubling to think that the DOT doesn't already have resources available and isn't already addressing just such situations - or even better, identifying trouble spots before a pedestrian is hurt or killed.

If not, the DOT should explain why not.

Automobiles are a central part of most South Carolinians' lives. They go to work in them, use them to take children to school, pile them high with groceries and simply go out in them for a spin.

As a result, society is auto-centric. As cities across South Carolina try to provide safe access for bicyclists and pedestrians, efforts often are met with animosity. Motorists worry about being inconvenienced and fear that they will injure cyclists or pedestrians who fail to follow the rules of the road.

In high-traffic areas, the tension can be greater. Somehow motorists must remember: Having to stop at one crosswalk after another in hospital or school zones can be frustrating. But hitting a person would be far, far worse.

Pedestrians who are in a hurry need to walk the extra block to a crosswalk or wait the extra 45 seconds for the sign to light up, showing that it's safe to cross the street.

South Carolina's pedestrian death rate was recently ranked fourth among all states. It's time for the DOT and other authorities to do something about it.