State roadway fatalities up first time since 2007

File photo. (Source: Steve Skipton / Lowcountry Fire News)
File photo. (Source: Steve Skipton / Lowcountry Fire News)

COLUMBIA, SC (AP) - The number of people killed on South Carolina's roadways has gone up for the first time since 2007, due in part to marked increases in motorcycle and pedestrian deaths.

As of Dec. 27, 810 people had been killed on state roads and highways, according to the state Department of Public Safety. That's compared to 2010, when 801 people died on South Carolina's roads.

The last increase in traffic fatalities happened in 2007, when 1,052 were killed in South Carolina, compared to 1,024 the year before.

The number of people killed in vehicle wrecks actually went down in 2010, from 591 to 559. But the number of pedestrians killed in South Carolina has gone up nearly 20 percent since last year, with 110 pedestrians killed so far in 2011, compared to 89 last year.

People killed while riding motorcycles also spiked over the past year, with 102 deaths in 2011 and 82 in 2010.

Authorities have attributed recent declines in motor vehicle fatalities to a stronger seat belt law. In 2006, a survey found about 72 percent of the state's drivers wore their seat belts. A survey in 2010 found about 85 percent of drivers buckled up.

The Highway Patrol said just over more than half of all motor vehicle deaths in 2011 involved someone not wearing a seat belt.

One state lawmaker has proposed a bill that would require anyone riding on a motorcycle to wear a helmet.

Last year, the South Carolina Supreme Court struck down a Myrtle Beach city ordinance that would have required bikers to wear helmets.

Greenville County had the state's highest number of traffic deaths at 53. Lexington County had 51, and Charleston County marked 49 traffic deaths.

With a total of 981 total pedestrian deaths from 2000 to 2009, South Carolina is ranked as the second most dangerous state for pedestrians by Transportation for America, an advocacy group based in Washington, D.C.

Nationwide, pedestrians account for nearly 12 percent of total traffic deaths, according to Transportation for America.

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