Live 5 Investigates: Changes planned after serious crashes on Cainhoy Road

Updated: Feb. 22, 2021 at 7:35 PM EST
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BERKELEY COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) - People who live and drive along Cainhoy Road in Berkeley County say the road is dangerous and are begging for some improvements.

Data from the South Carolina Department of Public Safety says there have been hundreds of crashes and more than a dozen deaths in crashes on Cainhoy Road since 2011. However, people in the area say the data does not paint the whole picture.

“The sound of these accidents is very unique, it’s like 100 shotguns or 1,000 shotguns going off at once,” Richard Coen said. Coen lives just off Cainhoy Road and has been the first person on the scene of crashes many times.

“I’ve never really witnessed or seen anyone pass away in my life, except for [on] Cainhoy Road,” Coen added. “In the last five years it’s gotten exponentially worse. It’s very noticeable. And it’s not normal to have all these horrific accidents and deaths on a stretch of highway right outside your home.”

It only takes one trip down the road for drivers to see several crosses on each side, each representation a life lost during a crash. One of those crosses, near Halidon Hill Lane, bears the name Art Mullinax and the dates September 29, 1971 to July 24, 2019.

“Art was a real big family man, a hard worker, super nice guy,” friend and coworker Anthony Sweat said. “He loved South Carolina Gamecocks football, a diehard fan. He was really looking forward to the next stage of his life.”

On July 24, 2019, the two had a conversation outside the locker room at Nucor Steel and Sweat watched Mullinax drive home. Court records say a few miles down Cainhoy Road another driver going 30 miles per hour over the speed limit tried to pass a vehicle on a double yellow line, went into Mullinax’s lane and hit him head on. Sweat was home when he got the call from another coworker.

“He was already crying over the phone, telling me that Art was gone. And it didn’t seem real, and I really couldn’t wrap my head around it,” Sweat said.

Cainhoy Fire Department Deputy Chief Steve Goodwin responded to the crash and also works at Nucor Steel.

“In my experience as a firefighter, the worst accidents that I have seen out of anywhere that I’ve worked has been in the Cainhoy area, particularly Cainhoy Road. We have several fatality accidents a year on that road,” Goodwin said.

The two-lane road winds through trees, has no shoulder and does not have reflectors on the centerline, making it very difficult for drivers to see when it’s dark.

“It’s incredibly dangerous,” Coen said. “When you go off, there’s nowhere to go, except in a tree and coming out of that alive, if you survive, you’re very lucky.”

Live 5 News took these concerns to the South Carolina Department of Transportation, the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office and the South Carolina Highway Patrol.

Staff with SCDOT say they recently completed a site survey of the road and will be putting in some short-term fixes.

“They’re going to add reflective strips to those curve signs to make them more visible particularly at night,” SCDOT Director of Communications Pete Poore said.

They also plan to add reflectors to the center line once it warms up in the spring. Usually any work with asphalt cannot be done when temperatures are too cold.

“Typically those reflectors are put 80 feet apart,” Poore said. “In those curved sections we are going to put them 40 feet apart to heighten the reflectivity and also the presence of those reflectors.”

These are the crash statistics for Cainhoy road from 2011-2020. The South Carolina Department...
These are the crash statistics for Cainhoy road from 2011-2020. The South Carolina Department of Public Safety says data from 2019 and 2020 is still preliminary.(Source: SCDPS)

While those changes are welcome news for people who drive along Cainhoy Road, many of them would like more of a police presence to prevent serious crashes.

“I think we’re overlooked by law enforcement and we really need a presence out here,” Coen said.

“I would really like to see a stronger police presence on the road,” Sweat agreed.

Live 5 News requested an interview with the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office but was instead sent this statement by Chief Deputy Jeremy Baker: “We will have our traffic units work the area. Speeding complaints are our number one complaint across the county. With the explosive growth the county is seeing this is an issue. I would reach out to the Highway Patrol also about this issue.”

Highway Patrol said they encourage anyone to call the regional office to request more enforcement at 843-953-6000.

Coen also wants to send a message to Berkeley County about development.

“It’s going to get worse. We’ve got to get the infrastructure in first. We got to be could be your husband, your wife, your child, your mother, next. These roads are so dangerous. They’re archaic, and we’re not going to catch up in the foreseeable future. Berkeley County, listen up, really start thinking about what you’re doing with these huge subdivisions. And let’s get smart about it,” he pleaded.

Sweat reminds everyone driving on Cainhoy Road to slow down and be extra careful. He remembers his friend as he drives down the road every day to work.

“Art worked very hard, and he enjoyed working hard,” Sweat said. “But one of his biggest joys was getting off work, calling his wife and going home to spend time with his wife...that was taken away from her. Poor, careless driving led to a family having a huge loss and a huge void in their world. So I would say to anybody out there driving carelessly, think about others. Think about what you could possibly take away from another family in a moment of carelessness.”

SCDOT also plans to review the last five years of crash data to see what long-term fixes are possible for Cainhoy Road.

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