September 6, 2012

Study ranks South Carolina highways 'most dangerous'

Information compiled from highway safety reports and ranked by percent of drivers not wearing seatbelts, highway traffic fatalities, amount of federal funding and the percent of bridges rated obsolete or deficient.

South Carolina was recently hailed as the state with the “most dangerous” highways, according to

The website compiled information from highway safety reports and ranked each state in six categories including percent of drivers not wearing seatbelts, highway traffic fatalities, the amount of federal funding and the percent of bridges rated obsolete or deficient.

The fatalities were examined by the number of speeding fatalities per mile of interstate highway, the number of highway deaths per 1,000 highway miles driven and the death rates released by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Each state was ranked, from 1 to 50 with 50 being the worst. Then, all six rankings were added for a cumulative score. South Carolina’s rankings combined for 241 points. The No. 2 state with the worst highways was Florida with 204 points.

Tyler Sprual, spokesman for, said the company noticed none of the studies had grouped all highway safety factors together in an analysis. Only highways and interstates were included.

The rankings aren’t surprising to Tom Crosby, VP of Communications for AAA.

“I would say that’s not surprising,” Crosby said. “Whenever we talk about S.C. safety laws there’s a libertarian approach that we don’t need more laws to protect people on the street. There’s a pervasive live and let live attitude that basically costs people their lives.”

Crosby said the state was the last to pass legislation on drunk driving and requiring the use of seat belts and is consistently in the top three for the most traffic deaths per mile driven. Additionally, drunk driving fatalities in South Carolina usually rank in the top 5, he said.

Sprual thought the study could help highlight safety concerns.

“Hopefully it would get a little attention to say, ‘Wow, this is stuff we’re lacking in,’” he said. “There is a solution to some of it. Part of it is wearing a seat belt. Wearing a seat belt is natural in some places, but it’s a problem in certain states and SC is one of them.”

In general, found southern states had the worst rankings. Behind South Carolina and Florida were Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi.

The best ranked states included Idaho, Tennessee, Arizona, Kentucky and Wyoming.

Sprual said the most interesting factor he found was a lack of any ban on cell phone use while driving for South Carolina and said that may be a major issue for roadway safety in the state.

Crosby, too, said that’s an area of concern.

“Part of it is that we don’t have anything against texting and driving, or talking on a cell phone while driving,” he said.

While Crosby said the S.C. Highway Patrol is working hard to crack down on traffic offenses enforcement is still problematic. That’s due to a combination of needing stricter laws and more officers to enforce them, Crosby said.

Lance Cpl. Sonny Collins, with highway patrol, said traffic fatalities are down from last year -- a sign things are moving in the right direction.

Collins said the highway patrol has found speeding and DUIs are two major causations for collisions, and seat belts are a main factor in why people are killed in crashes.

He said safety on the highways is best achieved by paying attention and driving defensively.

“Don’t be distracted by other things including cell phones,” he said. “If you know you’re traveling on a highway like U.S. 501 and it’s going to be congested during rush hour always look ahead. Watch and make sure that you know what the traffic light is because if it turns [red], traffic is going to back up quick.”

Additionally, he said everyone should wear seat belts.

“Wearing your seat belt is your best defense against other drivers that may not be as safe as you,” Collins said.

To see the complete rankings, visit

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