Traffic fatalities up in Aiken County

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News 12 First at Five, September 10, 2007

There have been 30 traffic deaths on Aiken County roads so far this year, and it's still only September. During all of last year, 30 people died on the roads. In 2005, there were 16 fatalities.

Aiken County Coroner Tim Carlton said he's worried about the increased numbers.

"But the crashes that we've seen have been just catastrophic and thats related to speed and the nature of the crash itself," Carlton said.

In 40 percent of those crashes, people were wearing their seat belts which is the first line of defense.

"I think when we go back and look at the wrecks, it's directly related to driving errors and when I say driving errors, speeding, inattention, things that the individual can correct," Carlton said.

Carlton said the biggest trend he sees is speed and bad driving habits like talking on your cell phone and being distracted by the radio.

"What we see a lot of times is when people leave the roadway what they do is jerk the steering wheel or they make a dramatic change in direction and once they hit the blacktop, the vehicle rolls over," he said.

Carlton said there are other trends among the 30 fatal traffic accidents this year, the actual DUI incident rate with traffic fatalities is down about 20 percent. But 50 percent of the accidents, still involved drinking.

"Enforcement is one thing and education is our other goal and we do over 100 classes a year in this county as it relates to driving," Carlton said.

One thing Carlton said is not a trend is age. He said the people involved in these crashes ranged from ages 23 to 70, and said they were locals that traveled back and forth through Aiken County every day.

"I think a lot of people realize that a vehicle is a dangerous instrument, but I don't think they realize how dangerous," Carlton said.

So what should people do to protect themselves while driving? The Aiken County Coroner said if you have the opportunity and the means to do it, take a defensive driving class because it could save your life.

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