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Locals hope for safer rural roads following gas tax increase - Live5News.com | Charleston, SC | News, Weather, Sports

Locals hope for safer rural roads following gas tax increase

Construction underway on US 78 in Dorchester County (Source: Live 5) Construction underway on US 78 in Dorchester County (Source: Live 5)
Rural Road Safety Program improvement projects, phase 1, for Tri-County (Source: SCDOT) Rural Road Safety Program improvement projects, phase 1, for Tri-County (Source: SCDOT)
SOUTH CAROLINA (WCSC) -

South Carolina has the deadliest rural roads in the country according to a new report released this week by a national non-profit transportation research group.

TRIP found that for every 100 million miles traveled, there are nearly four deadly crashes on our rural roads.

With the approval of The Roads Bill passed by the General Assembly, the gas tax will increase for the first time in 30 years.

Starting July 1 you’ll pay an additional 2 cents per gallon at the pump; part of a 12-cent increase over the next six years (2-cents per year);

Part of the money will go towards making South Carolina roads safer.

“Gas tax, if it goes towards the roads, I’m all for it,” said Paul, formerly of Johns Island.

“If it’s going to fix the roads, that’s no problem,” said Allen Smith, of Harleyville.

According to SCDOT, in the last five years, there have been 6,812 crashes which have ended in death or serious injury on our rural roads.

TRIP’s study shows 607 deaths on rural roads in 2015, compared to 370 on interstates and other roads.

“It’s a very big concern,” Smith said.

Smith drives the back roads of Dorchester County often, specifically US 78.

An SCDOT report states a 10-mile stretch on US 78 has seen 19 deadly or serious injury crashes.

“[That doesn’t surprise me], because as narrow as the road is they’re probably wrecking right now as we speak,” said Bryan Simmons, who works along US 78.

Earlier Friday morning, Simmons said he came across a car which had spun into a ditch during the rainy weather.

“Just slid off the side of the road, no ridges,” he said.

“[19 crashes] that’s terrible,” Smith said. “I had no idea. If that’s going on, then they need to do something.”

Right now SCDOT is working on improvements to the road to make it safer.

US 78 just one of 10 other roads in the Tri-County listed under Phase 1 of the “Off-Interstate Rural Road Safety Program”.

Secretary of Transportation Christy Hall said this program is aimed at the worst-of-the worst roads.

“The research done by our engineers has revealed that 30% of our highway deaths occur on only 5% of our highways and these roads are in our rural areas," she said. "We plan to invest $50 million of the new funds into this program each year to save as many lives as possible."

Heavily traveled Main Road on Johns Island is also on the list for improvement, in part thanks to the gas tax.

A nearly 15-mile stretch from the John F. Limehouse Bridge down towards Seabrook and Kiawah Islands has seen 15 deadly or serious crashes.

“It’s small, gets very dark at night… people are in a hurry, you have a lot of large vehicles that are turning,” Paul said.

SCDOT engineers have looked at guard rails, reflective signs, wider shoulders, and rumble strips in order to make this road and others safer.

Other rural roads in the Tri-County which fall under phase 1 of the Rural Road Safety Program include:

  • Berkeley County – US 17 ALT (10 miles), 18 fatal/serious injury crashes
  • Berkeley County – SC 6 (10 miles), 18 fatal/serious injury crashes
  • Charleston County – US 17 (10 miles), 8 fatal/serious injury crashes
  • Charleston County – US 17 (10 miles), 8 fatal/serious injury crashes
  • Charleston County – SC 61 (nearly 3 miles), 8 fatal/serious injury crashes
  • Dorchester County – US 17 ALT (9 miles), 16 fatal/serious injury crashes
  • Dorchester County – SC 61 (10 miles), 15 fatal/serious injury crashes
  • Dorchester County – SC 61 (nearly 10 miles), 13 fatal/serious injury crashes

A map of these locations can be located here.

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