Highway 17 in Charleston, SC

If you’ve ever been in a car accident, you know that accident situations can develop out of nowhere. But certain highways are clearly more dangerous because of the design or volume of traffic or a combination of factors. You are more likely to be in a car accident in Charleston if you’re on a dangerous highway.

A handful of recent surveys of car accidents have spotlighted dangerous highways in Charleston and throughout South Carolina.

U.S. 17 Coastal Highway is Most Dangerous in Charleston

A recently released survey from the personal security issues website A Secure Life names the Most Dangerous Highways in Each State for summer driving, based on an analysis of traffic fatality reports from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration covering the years 2015 to 2017. The researchers focused on data for the May-September period of each year.

“Summer driving has its own risks,” the survey report says. “With teen drivers out for summer break, families on long road trips, and fun outings like barbecues and beach trips, roads can be hectic and packed.”

Given that, it’s not a great surprise that the survey named U.S. 17, the Coastal Highway, the most dangerous in South Carolina for summer driving. Running south to north, U.S. 17 enters South Carolina from Georgia at the Savannah River and serves Hardeeville, Charleston, Georgetown and Myrtle Beach before entering North Carolina.

There were 82 fatalities on U.S. 17 in the period studied, but the survey does not pinpoint where they occurred.

The same survey says the state’s next most dangerous highways for summertime car accidents are Interstate 26 with 52 fatalities and S.C. 9 with 45 fatalities.

I-26 runs east-west from Charleston through Columbia and to near Landrum in Spartanburg County.

S.C. 9 begins in North Myrtle Beach and runs east-west parallel the S.C./N.C. border to Lancaster, then through Spartanburg and on to the North Carolina border in the Upstate.

6 Major S.C. Highways Among Nation’s Most Dangerous

South Carolina’s Coastal Highway, U.S. 17, and the state’s main east-west interstate, I-26, are not the only ones to make a list of the nation’s most dangerous highways based on NHTSA data.

Teletrac, a company that sells GPS fleet-tracking software, looked at 35,092 traffic fatalities in the United States in 2015 to determine the 25 most deadly highways in the United States based on fatalities per mile.

Interstate 26 is No. 12 on the list of deadly highways. Keep in mind that the survey covers the whole stretch from Kingsport, Tennessee, to Charleston, South Carolina.

U.S. 17, which stretches from Winchester, Virginia, to Punta Gorda, Florida, ranked No. 20. According to the survey, Myrtle Beach is the deadliest city on this highway.

Others on the list are:

  • Interstate 95, which is No. 5 and runs through Florence and Walterboro in South Carolina.
  • Interstate 20 at No. 14, which passes through Columbia and Florence, S.C.
  • Interstate 85 at No. 15, which runs from Petersburg, Virginia, to Montgomery, Alabama, and enters South Carolina south of Charlotte, N.C. before crossing the Upstate through Spartanburg and Greenville.
  • S. 1 at No. 24, which runs from Fort Kent, Maine, to Key West, Florida, and goes through Camden, Columbia and Aiken, S.C.

Fatalities were caused by crashes in moving traffic, overturned vehicles, pedestrians being hit and hitting trees.

South Carolina No. 2 Overall for Dangerous Highways

In a compilation of the most dangerous states to drive in the United States, 24/7 Wall St. calculated the number of motor vehicle fatalities per 100,000 residents in 2018, based on National Safety Council accident statistics and U.S. Census population estimates.

In a March 2019 report, 24/7 Wall St. said South Carolina ranked second among States With the Most Dangerous Roads.

The difference in the likelihood of dying from a car crash depends on a variety of conditions, including seat belt use, speed limits, drunk driving rates, and weather, 24/7 Wall St. said. The types of roads in the state also make a significant difference in whether a crash is an inconvenience or a life-threatening incident.

The survey’s statistical profile of South Carolina highway driving includes:

  • Motor vehicle fatalities per 100,000 residents: 20.34
  • 2018 motor vehicle fatalities: 1,034 (10th most)
  • Fatalities not wearing seat belts: 50.0% (17th highest)
  • Fatal crashes on rural roads: 60.0% (23rd highest).

Mississippi was No. 1 (worst) with 21.20 motor vehicle fatalities per 100,000 residents, and Alabama was No. 3, with 19.39 motor vehicle fatalities per 100,000 residents.

In April, 24/7 Wall St. cited Florence, S.C., for the state’s entry in Worst Cities to Drive in Every State. For this study, 24/7 Wall St. created an index composed of several driving-related measures, including average commute time, gas prices and accident rates, to capture various metropolitan areas’ safety, convenience and cost of driving.

In Florence, the survey found 22.8 traffic fatalities per 100,000 people, which compares to the state’s rate of 19.7.

In Florence, the survey cited:

  • Average commute time: 23.1 minutes (state average: 24.6 minutes)
  • Commuters driving to work: 92.1% (state: 91.3%)
  • 2017 car thefts per 100,000 people: 275.5.

The truth is a serious accident can happen anywhere. People are seriously injured and killed in preventable accidents in South Carolina all too often, unfortunately.

3 Tips for Highway Safety in Charleston

At A Secure Life, the source of the first survey we’ve looked at here, they suggest a few tips for keeping yourself safe when driving during the summer (or any time). They are:

Take your car for a safety check before a trip. The NHTSA maintenance checklist includes:

  • Tires
  • Lights
  • Cooling system
  • Fluid levels
  • Belts
  • Hoses
  • Wiper blades
  • Air conditioning
  • Floor mats.

Plan your route. There are several commercially available mapping and traffic apps, but A Secure Life recommends the Federal Highway Administration’s National Traffic and Road Closure Information for traffic stats and closed road alerts nationwide.

Share your travel plans with a friend or family member who is staying home and schedule periodic check-ins with them, especially if you’re traveling alone.

Avoid driving on risky days or at risky times. This means avoiding holiday travel as well as driving in morning or evening rush hours and after midnight, when you are more likely to be sleepy and become a traffic hazard yourself.

The attorneys at Joye Law Firm represent people in South Carolina who are injured in accidents or lose loved ones due to others’ carelessness or disregard for safety. Take advantage of a free consultation to learn about your legal options. We will be honest with you about whether we believe you have a valid injury claim. If we believe we can help, we will offer to handle your car accident case on a contingency fee basis. The attorneys at Joye Law Firm do not charge a legal fee unless we are successful in recovering money for you. Get in touch today.

About the Author

Mark Joye is the Head of the Litigation Department at the Joye Law Firm. A Board-Certified Trial Advocate with nearly 30 years of litigation experience, he currently serves on the Board of Governors for the American Association for Justice and is a past president of the South Carolina Association for Justice. In a recent trial, Joye headed a trial team that secured $17 million for a family killed in a tractor-trailer accident.

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