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For the second year in a row, Lancaster County was ranked one of the worst in South Carolina for motorcycle fatalities.
The rankings, which take into account all of the state’s 46 counties, were released earlier this month as part of AAA Carolinas’ annual list of dangerous counties for collisions.
The county ranked fourth in the study’s classification for best chance of being in a fatal crash, down two spots from its ranking in 2011.
Of the nine county fatal vehicle accidents in 2012, three involved a motorcycle, the report said.
Oconee County ranked first, followed by Williamsburg, Clarendon and Edgefield counties, though Lancaster County was the only holdout from the previous year.
According to the study, these five counties accounted for 13 percent of fatal motorcycle crashes in the state, while only having 5 percent of the total vehicle miles traveled within their borders.
Lancaster County also ranked fourth this year for best chance of being injured in a vehicle crash, up one spot from the previous year. There were 828 recorded injuries out of a total 1,392 crashes in 2012, the study said.
Joining the county on the list were Greenwood (which ranked first), Charleston, Sumter and Richland counties. All but Richland appeared on the list in 2011, though Greenwood has held the top spot every year since 2009.
Angela Vogel Daley, director of communications with AAA Carolinas, said the rankings are developed using data supplied by the S.C. Department of Transportation.
“They provide all crash data per county, total crashes, numbers of motorcycle crashes, all those topics. Then it’s broken down by fatal crashes,” Daley said. “They also provide us with the total traffic counts of each county over the year.”
The traffic counts included the numbers of vehicle miles traveled within a county during 2012.
Daley said AAA Carolinas then uses a formula to divide the crash data by the vehicle miles traveled to come up with a crash rate per county. Those crash rates then determine county rankings.
“We came up with the formula to help show the rate when comparing smaller counties to more populous ones,” she said. “The most populous counties still have some of the top rankings, but this way we can compare.”
Using the formula, Lancaster County averages 79.8 vehicle crashes per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, though it averages 131.8 injuries per 100 million VMT.
In regards to Lancaster County ranking two years in a row for motorcycle fatalities and collision injuries, Daley said that usually raises a warning flag about traffic conditions in a particular county.
“When we see counties appear on a specific list year after year, then we think maybe there’s an issue there,” she said.
Charleston and Greenville have ranked first and second, respectively, for three years straight as the most dangerous counties for collisions.
Clarendon and Jasper counties were ranked safest in terms of crashes per 100 million VMT, with 90.9 and 90.8 respectively. Calhoun County was the safest in terms of injuries, while Union County was the safest in terms of fatal crashes.
Overall, though, Lancaster County fared better in 2012 than the previous year, when it was ranked in the top five in five separate categories. In 2011’s study, Lancaster County ranked fifth for best chance of being injured in a crash; third for best chance of being in a fatal crash; fifth for best chance of being in a motorcycle collision; fourth for best chance of being injured in a motorcycle collision; and second for best chance of being in a fatal motorcycle crash.
Though the S.C. Highway Patrol does not comment on third-party studies, SCHP Lance Cpl. Billy Elder provided statistics on the changes in motorcycle fatalities between 2012 and the first eight months of 2013.
In 2012 there were three motorcycle fatalities, he said, which happened May 26 on S.C. 97, June 16 on S.C. 5 and Aug. 11 on U.S. 521.
Motorcycle crashes and fatalities were down for 2013, he said.
“So far, this year Lancaster has had four fatal crashes with one being a motorcycle fatality on S.C. 903,” he said.
Contact reporter Chris Sardelli at (803) 416-8416