Pedestrians face high risk on South Carolina roads, report says

Pedestrians in South Carolina face particularly dangerous circumstances, according to a new report. Here, a man is shown crossing Savannah Highway Monday.

South Carolina roads are particularly dangerous for walkers, who are reported to sustain fatal injuries at a rate double the national average, according a study released Tuesday.

The Palmetto State "Pedestrian Danger Index" is the fourth-worst among the states. Only Florida, Alabama and Louisiana are higher on the list for pedestrian danger.

The ranking is included in a 47-page analysis, "Dangerous By Design," released by two advocacy groups promoting safer streets and highways for pedestrians.

Statewide from 2003-2012, 1,020 people were killed in South Carolina when struck by vehicles. That was 10.7 percent of all traffic deaths, according to the report.

Smart Growth America and the National Complete Streets Coalition produced the analysis.

Senior citizens account for 1 in 5 pedestrian deaths, the report stated.

"The streets in our communities are not working for older Americans. Too many seniors can not safely walk to their destination. We know how to design safer streets," said Nancy LeaMond, AARP executive vice president for social impact.

The number of children killed as pedestrians has declined dramatically in recent decades from more than 1,000 fatalities in 1984 to 319 deaths in 2012.

"This decline is often attributed to a general decline in physical activity," the report states.

Fatal pedestrian injury still remains a leading cause of death for those ages 15 and under. Some 4,394 children in that age range were killed as pedestrians from 2003 to 2010.

LeaMond and other officials who participated in a teleconference Monday to discuss the study called for passage of the Safe Streets Act of 2014.

The legislation would change the way federally funded roads are planned, designed, and built to safely accommodate drivers, mass transit passengers, bicyclists and pedestrians.

"Really what we're talking about is designing streets to move pedestrians," said Roger Millar, director of the National Complete Streets Coalition.

In South Carolina, Charleston County ranks highest in the state for walkers and runners injured by traffic, with 93 pedestrians injured that way last year. State public safety statistics show that the county tied with Greenville for the most killed at 12.

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The Highway Patrol reported two pedestrian fatalities over the weekend out of six people killed on state roads. Where the people on foot died was not immediately available. Through midnight Sunday, 32 pedestrians and three bicyclists have died on state roads and highways out of a total of 264 killed.

On May 12, a man was killed while walking on S.C. Highway 45 near Pineville in Berkeley County when a vehicle hit him, said local Patrol spokeswoman Hannah Wimberley.

In that accident, the driver was not at fault, she said.

The pedestrian was struck as the driver tried to pass another vehicle. The man who died was walking in the opposing lane. It was night, and he was wearing dark clothing, she said.

The death of a College of Charleston student in January focused attention on the issue of pedestrian safety on the Septima Clark Parkway. A legislator filed a bill calling for construction of an overpass where the parkway crosses Coming Street.

A recent pedestrian injury in Avondale Point turned a spotlight on safety issues for people crossing Savannah Highway at that location. One man is still recovering from injuries he suffered last June. Five people have been struck in the neighborhood since 2009, none fatally.