Pedestrian deaths up 25 percent in South Carolina

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January 1, 2007

AIKEN CTY, S.C.---There has been a staggering increase in the number of walkers killed on South Carolina roads, but solving the problem is a two-way street.

2006 may be a year for the record books in South Carolina, but not in the way the state would like. It was the deadliest year for pedestrians in more than a decade.

More than 120 people died last year walking or crossing the streets in South Carolina, including five who died in Aiken County.

Many of those deaths may have been prevented if only a few simple steps had been followed.

The road is a dangerous place for drivers and pedestrians.

"Usually if I've seen a traffic death involving a pedestrian, they were not in a crosswalk," Lt. Eric Abdullah of the Aiken County Sheriff's Office told News 12.

People not using crosswalks is a big problem.

In 2006, pedestrian deaths in South Carolina were up 25 percent from 2005. That's because too often pedestrians dart into traffic, putting both themselves and drivers in danger.

"I think pedestrians become lackadaisical at crossing the road at any place because they are just thinking about getting to the other side," Lt. Abdullah said.

But too often pedestrians don't make it to the other side.

Pedro Turcios and Adriana Valle were not in a crosswalk when they tried to cross Whiskey Road in the dark this past October. They were hit by an SUV, and both died on the scene.

"It's important for pedestrians to cross in a crosswalk, because that gives them the opportunity to cross in a safe area," Lt. Abdullah said.

And crosswalks also help drivers know when to stop.

"Motorists will identify pedestrians in a crosswalk, because that's the most visible area for them to use," Lt. Abdullah said.

Most of the pedestrian deaths occurred after dark, so make sure you're seen if you are going to be out. Wear reflective clothing or a vest, bring a flashlight and remember to walk against the traffic.

But that still might not be enough. In December, Sgt. Jason Sheppard with the Aiken County Sheriff's Office was wearing a reflective vest when he was hit and killed while directing traffic.

"If they are not being attentive while driving, they could strike that person," Lt. Abdullah said.

According to the report, pedestrians "lying in the middle of the road" accounted for one third of pedestrian deaths in South Carolina. In most of those cases, safety officials said the pedestrian had been drinking.

Traffic fatalities overall are up as well. In 2005, Aiken County reported a total of 22 traffic fatalities. In 2006 that number rose to 31.