CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - For the third year in a row, AAA Carolinas has dubbed Charleston County the state's most dangerous for traffic collisions.
Charleston County has ranked as the most dangerous county in the state for the past three years and appeared in the top three for the past eight years. With 12,031 traffic crashes in 2012, Charleston County averages 342.4 crashes per 100 million vehicle miles traveled - 55% higher than the state average of 221.3. Collisions in Charleston County account for 11% of all collisions in South Carolina, even though it only has 7% of all the state's vehicle miles traveled.
Greenville County - ranked second in the state for collisions for three years straight - averaged 334.5 crashes per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, Richland County averaged 285.7 and Horry County averaged 268.7.
Greenville and Richland counties both appeared in the top three for the past eight years, and Horry County has appeared in the top five for six of the past seven years.
Ranking fifth this year was Pickens County, averaging 268.1 crashes per 100 million vehicle miles traveled. Although it didn't appear in the top five for 2011, Pickens ranked fourth for collisions in 2010.
"Consistently high rankings for being one of the most dangerous counties in the state should be a wake-up call for better traffic enforcement or road design," said David E. Parsons, president and CEO of AAA Carolinas.
AAA Carolinas' annual Dangerous Counties analysis, inaugurated in 1995, is one of several ways to look at South Carolina traffic crash data and done to remind motorists of the need for safe and defensive driving, especially in counties with above-average traffic crashes, injuries and deaths.
AAA Carolinas bases its annual ranking of the most dangerous counties on the likelihood of a certain type of crash - fatal, injurious, motorcycle, tractor-trailer, total - based on vehicle miles traveled.
For fatal crashes per vehicle miles traveled in 2012, Williamsburg, Oconee, Allendale, Saluda and Laurens counties ranked most dangerous. Combined, these rural counties accounted for 65 fatal crashes - 8.1% of the state's total - despite carrying only 4.5% of the state's vehicle miles traveled.
Nationally, rural roads account for two-thirds of fatal crashes.
"In addition to more curves, insufficient road markings and limited police presence, rural roads are prone to more single-vehicle accidents, particularly those involving alcohol," said Parsons.
Ranked most dangerous for fatal crashes, Williamsburg County in eastern South Carolina had 3.58 fatal crashes per 100 million vehicle miles traveled - more than twice the state average of 1.65.
For a crash in which someone was injured, Greenwood, Charleston, Sumter, Lancaster and Richland counties were the top five. All but Richland appeared on the list for 2011, and Greenwood has appeared as number one every year since 2009.
The most dangerous county for motorcycle collisions and injurious motorcycle crashes was Horry County, home to Myrtle Beach, which ranked second in both categories in 2011 and third in 2010.
After Horry, other counties ranked as the best chance of being in a motorcycle collision were Marlboro, Greenville, Oconee and Pickens counties. Those ranked as the best chance of being in an injurious crash after Horry were Marlboro, Pickens, Greenville and Greenwood.
For fatal motorcycle crashes, Oconee, Williamsburg, Clarendon, Lancaster and Edgefield ranked in the top five. All were new for 2012 except Lancaster, which ranked as number two for fatal motorcycle crashes in 2011.
These five counties accounted for 13% of fatal motorcycle crashes in South Carolina, while only carrying 5% of the total vehicle miles traveled.
Overall, fatal motorcycle crashes in South Carolina increased 3% from 104 in 2011 to 107 in 2012, accounting for 13% of all fatal traffic crashes.
The five counties that offered the best chance of being in a fatal tractor-trailer crash in 2012 were Clarendon, Calhoun, Williamsburg, Barnwell and Cherokee. Other than Barnwell, which ranked fourth, none appeared on the list in 2011.
These five counties accounted for 20% of all fatal tractor-trailer crashes in 2012, in spite of carrying only 5% of the total vehicle miles traveled.
Counties rated most dangerous for tractor-trailer collisions were Marlboro, Allendale, Georgetown, Cherokee and Florence. Counties with the best chance of being in an injurious crash involving a tractor-trailer were Marlboro, Allendale, Williamsburg, Florence and Colleton.
Overall, fatal tractor-trailer crashes were up 3% from 63 in 2011 to 65 in 2012 and account for about 8% of all fatal crashes.
The county with the best chance of not being in a collision was Jasper, which has appeared in the top four for the past five years. Jasper had just 90.8 crashes per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, compared to the state average of 221.3.
For the third-consecutive year, Calhoun County ranked safest in the state for injurious crashes. Union County, with a single traffic fatality in 2012, offered the best chance of not being in a fatal crash.
The safest counties in 2012 for all motorists, with the smallest percentage of accidents per vehicle miles traveled were:
Total Crashes: Jasper, Clarendon, Lee, Calhoun, Hampton
Injury Crashes: Calhoun, Jasper, Clarendon, Hampton, Newberry
Fatal Crashes: Union, Cherokee, Marlboro, Chester, Aiken
The deadliest county with the highest total number of fatal crashes was Greenville with 67, up nearly 22% from 55 in 2011. Horry had 51, Spartanburg 48, Anderson 45 and Lexington 45.
The total number of traffic fatalities in South Carolina increased 4% from 828 in 2011 to 863 in 2012. Although vehicle miles traveled were up slightly - just 0.3% compared to 2011 - the relative number of crashes was up significantly, from 209 crashes per 100 million vehicle miles traveled in 2011 to 221.3 in 2012.