While South Carolina's overall traffic fatality rate has been trending slightly downwards, Lexington County and Richland County have unfortunately been seeing the opposite.
According to The State newspaper, by May 17, traffic deaths in Lexington County in 2018 were double what they were by the same time last year, with 34 deaths in total compared to last year's 17. Richland County, meanwhile, was already battling a battling a surge in traffic fatalities on Columbia roads, and looks poised to continue the fight throughout 2018.
What's causing this sudden spike in traffic fatalities? How can you keep yourself and your family safe on South Carolina's roads?
Let's take a look.
Why Are Traffic Fatalities Rising in Columbia, SC?
The simplest answer is that they're rising throughout the Midlands, and Columbia is just part of the overall trend.
With a rapidly growing population (Columbia is expected to top 1 million residents by 2035) and statewide issues with low seat belt use and poor road quality, Columbia may see an even greater rise in overall automobile collisions and serious injuries as time goes by.
Are Nonfatal Car Wrecks Happening More Often, Too?
While not every minor collision between vehicles will find its way into official records, the rate of nonfatal car wrecks does appear to be rising alongside traffic fatalities.
While poor road quality may be responsible for some of these wrecks, the top causes of traffic fatalities in South Carolina mostly involve the choices and behavior of individuals in the car or behind the wheel.
What Are the Top Causes of Traffic Fatalities in SC?
1. Not Wearing a Seat Belt
Everyone learns the importance of wearing their seat belt from an early age, but too many adults get on the road without buckling up.
South Carolina averages only about 50% seat belt use statewide, and it is often cited as a contributing factor in traffic fatalities. If a driver or passengers are not wearing seat belts, vehicle collisions are more likely to involve serious or fatal injuries.
2. Driving Under the Influence
Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is consistently the number-one cited reason for traffic fatalities, and more than one-third of fatal car wrecks in Greenville and Anderson counties listed driving under the influence as the cause of the wreck.
If you see someone driving erratically and you are concerned about your safety, report the problem to law enforcement immediately. Never get behind the wheel while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Call for a cab, request an Uber or Lyft, or simply ask a friend to be your Designated Driver.
Even some prescription drugs can cause impaired driving, so carefully read the labels and listed side effects of any and all prescription drugs you use.
3. Traveling at High Speeds
Speeding as a cause of traffic fatalities has been consistently on state reports from the very beginning, and it shows no signs of going away any time soon.
When an individual drives above the speed limit, it takes them longer to slow down or come to a complete stop. A speeding driver may not be able to see individuals pulling in front of them at intersections, may run stoplights in an attempt to "beat the light", or commit other unsafe behaviors that can easily lead to a collision between vehicles.
Speed limits are listed for a reason. Try to keep close to the posted speed limits, and take care to stay aware and watchful while out on Columbia's busy roads.
4. Distracted Driving and Texting and Driving
Texting and driving is illegal in South Carolina, but it's not often cited as the reason for pulling someone over.
If you've ever seen someone clearly staring down at their phone, applying makeup, or simply paying more attention to their coffee than the road, you're not alone — distracted driving is one of the top causes of car wrecks in Lexington and Richland Counties.
Most distracted drivers aren't going to admit they were texting or looking at anything else when they speak with law enforcement following a crash, but it is possible for police officers to gain a search warrant that allows them to check for the last activities on an individual's cell phone.
The easiest way to avoid being involved in a wreck caused by texting and driving?
Put your phone down. There is no text so important that it can't wait until you get to your destination. Keep a careful eye out for other cars that may be operated by individuals who simply aren't even looking up.
Involved in a Car Wreck in Columbia, South Carolina? We're Here to Help.
At Bluestein Attorneys, we have experience working with individuals involved in collisions between vehicles. Whether you've been the victim of a hit and run, involved in a wreck with a tractor trailer, or your insurance company isn't offering you the full value of your car after declaring it totaled, we would be happy to sit down with you to discuss your unique situation and help you decide on the best next step for you.