Roads more deadly in '07

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By Jesef Williams

Seven more people died on Lancaster County roads in 2007 than the year before, and the S.C. Highway Patrol points to alcohol use and the failure to use seat belts as major reasons for the spike.

In 2007, 16 crashes in the county resulted in 17 fatalities. That's up substantially from 2006, when 10 crashes resulted in 10 fatalities.

About half of the fatal crashes in the county last year were alcohol-related and about 70 percent are tied to non seat-belt use, Lance Cpl. Ron Johnson said. Other key factors have been speeding and failing to yield to other vehicles.

"It's a mixture for disaster," Johnson said.

Johnson wants to remind motorists about how to handle a vehicle if it begins to run off the road. Many accidents stem from drivers over correcting and then losing control of the vehicle.

"Don't try to jerk it immediately," Johnson said. "Come off the accelerator. Allow the vehicle to slow. Steer the vehicle back in the roadway. Don't jerk it."

Troopers will be making more community appearances, such as areas schools and businesses, to talk about the importance of driving safely.

"We want to get the message out about driving under the influence and seat belts, and how to recover the vehicle when it runs off the roadways," Johnson said.

Statewide numbers

The number of highway deaths in South Carolina increased by 43 in 2007, compared to 2006.

In 2007, 981 crashes in South Carolina resulted in 1,071 fatalities. In 2006, 1,028 people died in 973 crashes.

Of those 1,071 in 2007, 807 of those people had access to seat belts, and 500 of them weren't wearing one.

Just over 100 pedestrians, 19 pedal cyclists and 120 motorcyclists were killed in 2007.

Johnson said the Highway Patrol will pay more attention to seat-belt use on highways, not just during the holidays, but all year round. The patrol is hoping to see more compliance this year from motorists.

"It's important for people to take these precautions because the single most dangerous thing we do every day is drive a car," Johnson said. "We take that for granted."

Contact Jesef Williams at 283-1152 or jwilliams@thelancasternews.com