COLUMBIA, SC — Richland County road deaths this year are far outpacing the county’s three previous years’ death tolls year-to-date, according to statistics released by the S.C. Department of Public Safety.
“Many of these deaths are so stupid because they were so preventable,” Richland County coroner Gary Watts said Tuesday. His office handles such deaths.
“It’s nothing out of the ordinary – it’s the same old stuff – people not wearing seat belts, people drinking and driving,” Watts said.
Distracted driving, or the use of cell phones to talk and text, also seems to be a factor, Watts said.
“It’s so stupid.,” Watts said. “We do everything we can to get the message out – don’t drink and drive, put your seat belt on. It’s very frustrating. You just know had they been paying attention, or driving 20 mph slower, or wearing a seat belt, the death wouldn’t have happened.”
As of midnight Sunday, 56 people had died on Richland County roads so far this year. That compares with 46 deaths this time last year; 34 deaths this time in 2011, and 37 deaths this time in 2010. They include pedestrians, single vehicle crashes and a motorcyclist who was killed by a deer.
And Monday night, around 8 p.m., a pedestrian was run down and killed by an SUV in the 7800 block of Garners Ferry Road, Columbia police said.
Of South Carolina’s 46 counties, only Greenville had more traffic fatalities as of midnight Sunday year to date. That county had 59.
Richland’s skyrocketing road death toll this year contrasts markedly with statewide trends.
So far this year, as of midnight Sunday, 662 people had died in traffic incidents compared with 753 at this time last year.
Lexington County has had 35 traffic deaths year to date.
Reach Monk at (803) 771-8344