SCDOT publishes stats on I-26 corridor safety

COLUMBIA, SC (WCSC) - The South Carolina Department of Transportation has completed the process of gathering field data as part of a project to improve safety in a corridor of I-26 in Dorchester and Berkeley Counties.

SCDOT safety engineers are currently analyzing the information to determine the most effective measures that can be used to save lives. The analysis of the 23 miles of data is expected to be completed within the next month.

SCDOT staff is expecting to develop a project based on this analysis beginning in July.

In September of 2009, SCDOT engineers recommended a project to the  SCDOT Commission to improve safety on "high crash corridors" through reducing fixed object crashes.  SCDOT's research shows that nearly 20,000 crashes occur each year in South Carolina involving fixed objects  such as trees, utility poles and bridge piers. Crashes involving moving vehicles and fixed objects account for 20 percent of all crashes in the state and nearly 50 percent of all fatal crashes. The national rate for fatal crashes in this category is approximately 30 percent.

Transportation Secretary H.B. Limehouse Jr. said safety improvement projects are part of the overall strategy at SCDOT. "When I began my administration in 2007, we launched a "Fix it First" strategy to focus on improving our large state-maintained highway system.  Improving safety folds right into this agency-wide effort along with upgrading the maintenance of our highways and bridges," said Limehouse.

The SCDOT Traffic Safety Office targeted the Berkeley-Dorchester Corridor on I-26 for safety improvements because this section is consistently one of the top crash corridors in the state. During the years of 2003 through 2008, over four lives were lost per year in this corridor as a result of vehicles striking trees in the median.

Crash statistics recorded during the last four complete years (2006-2009) on a section of I-26 between mile marker 170 (near the Orangeburg-Dorchester county line) and mile marker 193 (near the Jedburg exit) revealed the following data:

  • Total crashes – 752
  • Total fatalities – 30
  • Total injuries – 218

As a comparison, crash statistics recorded during the same four years on I-26 between Columbia and the Charleston area (mile marker 120 to mile marker 170) are as follows:

  • Total crashes – 2101
  • Total fatalities – 34
  • Total injuries – 419

In October of 2009, the SC Division of the Federal Highway Administration approved SCDOT's request to pursue a safety improvement project on I-26 in the two counties. The work just completed by surveyors began in February 2010. The surveyors measured slopes of the shoulders, width of shoulders and location of trees in the median

Secretary Limehouse said this two-county project on I-26 and the priority given to high crash corridors is just one of a number of safety initiatives at SCDOT. "We are constantly looking for ways to make our highways safer with the limited funding resources available to us," Limehouse said.

He pointed to other projects such as the one designed to reduce the number of run-off-the-road crashes through the use of rumble strips on interstate and primary highways. "This low-cost technology allows us to provide more miles of protection for distracted drivers on our busier highways," he said.

He noted that $19 million in ARRA, or highway stimulus funds were used for safety projects that included upgrading traffic signals, improving or adding turn lanes, straightening dangerous curves, replacing or adding new guardrail and widening and resurfacing shoulders.

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