The Facts and Figures of South Carolina Accident Fatalities

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the average annual cost of car crash-related deaths in South Carolina was $1.05 billion in 2013, the most recent figures available for individual states. These losses include an estimated $10 million in medical costs and an estimated $1.04 billion in lost productivity because those who are killed are no longer able to work.

South Carolina car accident statistics provide a frightening picture of the extent of car accident losses. Unfortunately, though staggeringly high, this $1.05 billion figure takes into account only losses due to car accident deaths.

The actual total amount of financial loss caused by car accidents is far higher when factoring in the costs of treating car accident injuries and the costs of property damage resulting from car accidents. In fact, the South Carolina Department of Public Safety indicates that traffic accidents caused $4.54 billion dollars in estimated loss in 2016 when factoring in property damage, medical costs and lost wages. This estimate does not include intangible costs such as grief and pain and suffering. Importantly, this figure increased by 5.0 percent in just one year. The previous yearly increase (in 2015 from 2014) was 15 percent.

Although South Carolina law puts the burden on those responsible for causing car accidents to pay for the costs of losses, the amount of money that is spent each year coping with the aftermath of auto accidents still represents a major financial loss.

Traffic Fatalities in South Carolina

The South Carolina Department of Public Safety (SCDPS) keeps an up-to-date tally on the number of people who are killed in South Carolina auto accidents. According to its 2016 information:

  • 1,020 people were killed in SC traffic accidents in 2016.
  • The number of fatalities was up 18.2 percent from 2012 to 2016.
  • Fatalities in collisions with a tractor-trailer truck increased 10.1 percent between 2012 and 2016.
  • Fatalities in collisions with a motorcycle increased 35.8 percent between 2012 and 2016.
  • Fatalities in collisions with a pedestrian increased 20 percent between 2012 and 2016.
  • 4 percent of occupants not wearing a seat belt at the time of collision were either killed or seriously injured. The percentage of motor vehicle occupants who were killed or seriously injured while wearing their seat belt was less than 1 percent.

The SCDPS 2016 Traffic Collision Fact Book also reveals that:

  • One fatal collision occurs in South Carolina every 9.3 hours.
  • One person is killed in a South Carolina traffic crash every 8.6 hours.
  • One bicyclist is killed in a traffic crash every 15.3 days.
  • One motorcycle rider is killed in a traffic crash every 2.5 days in South Carolina.
  • One pedestrian is killed every 2.5 days in a South Carolina auto accident.
  • One child under the age of 6 is severely injured or killed every 8 days.

Car Accidents that Produce Injuries

While fatal crashes are an all-too-common occurrence, not every crash leads to a death. Wrecks that do not cause fatalities can still have life-changing consequences and can cause significant injuries and financial losses. Understanding these types of car accidents is, therefore, also important in having a full picture of auto accident losses in South Carolina.

According to the 2016 SCDPS Traffic Collision Fact Book:

  • 61,899 people were injured in traffic accidents in 2016, an increase of 23.6 percent over 2012 and 5.6 percent over 2015.
  • A traffic crash occurs in South Carolina every 3.7 minutes.
  • A crash that causes injury occurs every 13.1 minutes.
  • One person is injured in a South Carolina traffic crash every 8.5 minutes.

Causes of Car Crashes

Traffic accidents can happen for a number of reasons. The 2016 numbers in the SCDPS Fact Book are as follows:

  • Driver behavior was the primary contributing factor in 133,655 SC traffic collisions in 2016.
  • Driver error caused 84.3 percent of all fatal collisions, or in 793 out of 941 deadly crashes.
  • DUI was the leading primary contributing factor for fatal crashes in SC during 2016, resulting in 206 collisions, or 21.9 percent of deaths.
  • Second to DUI deaths was driving too fast for conditions on the roadway, resulting in 199 collisions, or 21.2 percent of 2016 traffic deaths.
  • Failure to yield the right of way took third place as a leading primary contributing factor, causing 115 fatal crashes.
  • Driving the wrong way or on the wrong side of the road caused 50 fatal crashes, killing 63.
  • Disregard for road signs or signals killed 44 people.
  • Aggressive driving behaviors resulted in 36 deaths and 725 persons injured.
  • Improper lane changing was responsible for 22 deaths and 2,077 injuries.
  • Driver distraction was the primary contributing factor in 9 fatal crashes, killing 12 persons. 3,396 people were injured in distracted driving collisions.
  • Tailgating or following too closely caused 3 deaths and 3,586 injuries.
  • Roadway factors (debris, potholes, soft shoulders, work zones, etc.) contributed to a total of 1,034 collisions and caused 4 deaths during 2016.
  • Vehicle problems were a contributing factor in 10 fatal crashes and 2,134 non-fatal crashes.

Other causes of fatal crashes included exceeding the speed limit in general; falling asleep behind the wheel; making improper turns; medical problems on the part of the driver; oversteering or over-correcting; swerving to avoid objects; and other wrongful acts.

In many cases, these actions were taken by drivers who could have chosen a different way to behave. If drivers simply obeyed the rules of the road, didn’t speed, didn’t drive while they were tired and otherwise were reasonably careful, countless deaths and injuries could be avoided.