Originally created 08/17/00

S.C.'s deadly interstates



South Carolina's highway death rate is 60 percent above the national average, and a startling number of those deaths are from vehicles that cross interstate medians and collide with oncoming traffic.

Between 1987 and 1999, more than 100 vehicle fatalities on South Carolina interstates happened when the cars crossed un-barricaded medians, according to to the state Department of Transportation.

The (Columbia) State reported recently that since July 24 of this year, 11 people were killed in such wrecks. The death rate from these crossover accidents add up to 17 percent of the state's interstate fatalities.

That's unacceptable and state transportation officials want to do something about it - a prudent response, albeit a difficult one, since South Carolina's Transportation Department is $30 million short of the cash needed to install divider barricades along the narrowest stretches of South Carolina interstates.

All interstates are facing increased traffic, and South Carolina is no exception. While $30 million may seem like a lot of money to spend on road dividers, consider the cost of crashes in 1999 alone: Nearly $2.2 million, or $567 per South Carolinian, according to DOT statistics.

The Transportation agency should explore every funding avenue possible in search of federal grants that can be spent on highway safety, as differentiated from highway construction. Those pots of money are out there, and South Carolina should be able to make a good case for why it deserves federal help. State matching money will also be needed.

In the meantime, drivers should be aware that the leading cause of accidental deaths in South Carolina is motor vehicle crashes. Ninety percent of those accidents were due to driver error - excessive speed, failure to yield right of way, inattention and driving under the influence of alcohol.

While the state embarks on a median barricade program, drivers need to recommit to defensive driving practices. Lives depend on it.