The number of pedestrians killed in traffic crashes in South Carolina jumped 31 percent for the first six months of 2015 compared to the same months in 2014, according to new data.
The Governors Highway Safety Association released the numbers Tuesday, showing pedestrian deaths went from 42 in the first half of 2014 to 55 in the same months of 2015.
That increase mirrors a nationwide rise. Researchers used preliminary numbers to estimate pedestrian fatalities increased 10 percent over the course of 2015.
In 2014, South Carolina ranked No. 6 in pedestrian fatality rates, with 2.21 per 100,000 people.
In Columbia, most pedestrian deaths come from people crossing the road at spots other than designated crosswalks, according to Cpl. Robert Uhall with the Columbia Police Department. As the city’s population grows, he said, it’s important that roadways and walkways are engineered in such a way as to force folks to cross in safe areas.
“I think we’re looking at a good trend if we continue with areas like they did on Assembly Street and between Blossom and Green streets,” he said.
Uhall also said the state’s ranking doesn’t come as a surprise – in his seven years working traffic, South Carolina has consistently ranked fifth or sixth in number of pedestrians killed in crashes.
The S.C. Highway Patrol, which works in more rural areas, has a different concern. Most of the pedestrian fatalities state troopers work come when people walk with the flow of traffic, with their backs to oncoming vehicles, Highway Patrol Cpl. Bill Rhyne said.
By law, pedestrians should walk against traffic, so they can see vehicles approach. Rhyne said it’s also strongly recommended that people wear reflective clothing.
“If you’re out on the roadway walking with your back to traffic, and you have dark-colored clothing on, by the time a motorist sees you it’s too late,” he said. “They don’t have time to get stopped.”
Troopers worked 13.8 percent more pedestrian fatalities in 2015 than in 2014, Rhyne said.
For 2016 so far, Highway Patrol has worked 21 pedestrian fatalities. That’s down from this point in 2015, when there were 26 such deaths.
Both Uhall and Rhyne urged everyone on the road to be cautious – pedestrians and motorists alike.
“People operate in this comfort zone of, ‘People see me,’ or, ‘I have the right of way,’” Rhyne said. “Never assume people see you.”