S. Carolina has highest rate of secondary road fatalities

AIKEN --- South Carolina's traffic fatality rate on secondary roads is the highest in the country, according to a report released this week by a national research group.

The study was conducted by The Road Information Program and commissioned by the South Carolina Alliance to Fix Our Roads, a group of chambers of commerce and business and government leaders.

It ranked the 100 most dangerous secondary roads across the state between 2002 and 2006.

Three of those roads are in Aiken County. Rainbow Falls Road, near Edgefield County, was ranked the fourth most dangerous road in the state.

Pine Log Road ranked 55th, and Old Barnwell Road ranked 80th.

To determine which roads have serious crash rates, the state Department of Transportation gathered data between 2002 and 2006 on the number of crashes, serious injuries, fatalities and the amount of traffic on the roads.

By combining data on the number and severity of crashes, the length of the road and overall travel levels, the research group calculated a severity rate for each segment of state secondary roads identified by the department.

According to the study, the state's traffic fatality rate of 2.21 per 100 million miles is 52 percent higher than the national average of 1.45.

Though the study offers grim statistics about the state of rural roads in South Carolina, Liz Stewart, of the Aiken Chamber of Commerce, does see one positive aspect of the report -- that the Aiken chamber focused on the right issues when it formed a Transportation Council this year.

"It does reinforce what our members are telling us -- that transportation as a global topic is one that's of great interest to the business community and certainly safety is a component of that," she said.

According to the report, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that the economic cost of vehicle crashes in South Carolina in 2005 was $3.7 billion, or an average of $863 per resident.

"These costs include medical costs, lost economic and household productivity, psychological or emotional trauma, property damage and travel delays," the study said.

Reach Michelle Guffey at (803) 648-1395, ext. 110, or michelle.guffey@augustachronicle.com.

BY THE NUMBERS

- The South Carolina Department of Transportation is spending $16 million annually on a program that is targeted at making safety improvements on rural secondary roads.

- One person is killed every 8.5 hours in a traffic accident in South Carolina.

- In 2005, the rate of traffic fatalities on South Carolina's non-interstate rural roads was about 4.9 times higher than the traffic fatality rate on all other roads and highways in the state -- 4.61 versus 0.95.

- 72 percent of traffic fatalities in the state in 2005 happened on secondary roads.

- In 2005, 34 percent of vehicle travel in the state occurred on rural secondary roads. The national average is 26 percent.

- From 2001 to 2005, an average of 1,044 people were killed yearly in highway vehicle accidents. During that time, 5,220 were killed on South Carolina highways.

Source: Getting Home Safely, an analysis of highway safety in South Carolina