By Barney Blakeney
The tragic death of a mother and grandmother who June 22 plowed into an oncoming car carrying First Congressional District candidate Katie Arrington was among the scores of fatalities that occur on local rural roads. The almost weekly incident reports come often, but not too often to numb the senses laid bare by the knowledge each victim was someone with a life story – behind each number is a life.
Eleven fatalities in Charleston County Sheriff Office jurisdiction occurred on rural roads in Charleston County between January 30 and May 30. There were 29 in 2017 increased from 17 in 2016. In one report an official recorded, “On October 28, 2017, shortly after 6:00 a.m., Charleston County Sheriff’s Office deputies responded to a single car fatality on Bohicket Road. According to a preliminary investigation, the driver was traveling east and appeared to have failed to negotiate a curve for an unknown reason. As a result, the vehicle drove off the road striking two trees. The driver was pronounced dead at the scene.”
S.C. Highway Patrol L. Cpl. Matt Southern said three of four fatal crashes occur with fixed objects – trees, posts, ditches, etc. Thirty-three percent of them are speed related and 31 percent involve driving under the influence. Three of four fatal accidents happen at night and most occur on secondary roads. The most recent stats Southern provided indicated about 1,000 people in South Carolina lost their lives in nearly 150,000 crashes in 2016. The cost in dollars was nearly $5 billion. The cost to the victims’ survivors is inestimable.
Charleston County Sheriff’s spokesman Eric Watson emphasized rural roads are unforgiving and are especially dangerous for cars traveling in the dark at high speeds on tree-lined roads with sharp curves and narrow shoulders. Accidents under such conditions usually are disastrous, he said. But we can impact the devastation. Continued education, practicing highway safety and obeying traffic laws are keys. And wear seat belts!