I-26 Danger: Is it the road or the driver?

SUMMERVILLE, SC (WCSC) - Two accidents near Summerville on Tuesday shut down part of Interstate 26. The first accident was a deadly crash that caused big traffic problems Tuesday morning.

Troopers say 44-year-old Dante Vann of Summerville died at the scene. He was killed when he ran off I-26 near mile marker 196 and hit a tree.

The second wreck happened just a mile away from the first and involved five vehicles. In that wreck, a dump truck side-swiped several other vehicles when it ran off the road and hit a tree. Five people went to the hospital and the truck driver was charged with driving too fast for conditions.

Those two lanes of highway and one big distraction is all it takes to add to a growing number of accidents on I-26. The stretch of highway between I-95 and Summerville has been coined the death zone, but Lance Corporal Bob Beres with the South Carolina Highway Patrol says people are quick to blame the highway. He said he believes the blame falls on the drivers. Some of those drivers agree.

"Someone's about to rear end somebody else and you look over and they're texting on their phone," said I-26 driver Chris Davis.

Davis drives on I-26 regularly and said it might be getting worse.

"You know I don't remember it being this bad years ago," Davis said. "It seems like in the last year, maybe the last few months; it's gotten a lot worse."

Texting, talking on cell phones and speeding are all contributing factors into accidents, according to the highway patrol.

Federal and state records show more than 325 deaths have occurred along that stretch of I-26 in the past decade.

Beres says last year alone there were 286 accidents reported in Berkeley County over the same distance. Even with a crackdown by highway patrol starting last year, numbers of accidents and fatalities are still growing.

Beres also says no matter how many troopers there are patrolling the roads, safety starts first with the driver. The highway patrol just received $1.5 million from the Department of Transportation to let troopers work overtime on dangerous roads.

The highway patrol hopes the focus on speeders will reduce deaths similar to a recent drunk driving crackdown.

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