Charleston honors hundreds of lives lost to traffic accidents in recent years

Leaders also spoke with families who lost loved ones to the dangers. At the meeting, Danny Massie stood up to address leaders.
Published: Nov. 16, 2023 at 4:55 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 16, 2023 at 7:14 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Ahead of World Remembrance Day for victims of traffic accidents, the city of Charleston is acknowledging and honoring the lives lost on city streets in recent years at a council meeting.

Leaders also spoke with families who lost loved ones to the dangers. At the meeting, Danny Massie stood up to address leaders.

“I have to admit I wasn’t aware of the dangers of our city streets until our personal loss,” Massie said.

His son David Massie died at the age of 36 on Maybank Highway trying to cross the street four years ago.

According to South Carolina Department of Transportation, the state saw 1,097 traffic deaths in 2022. Preliminary South Carolina Department of Public Safety data for 2023 shows 849 deaths so far.

Many of the major concerns for advocacy groups like Charleston Moves, are that walkers and bikers are the most vulnerable users on the road. Katie Zimmerman, Executive Director of the group says road design needs to keep up the high demands of those users, especially in Charleston County.

“I think there’s been a very long period where the region was not recognizing how dire I mean, obviously, we’ve had advocates for a very long time, we’ve had individuals for a very long time who know that this is a problem and have been fighting to make the region safer. But I think it’s only within the past few years have folks really come to accept that we have a problem and we need to invest in solutions,” Zimmerman said.

An SCDOT study shows that 287 bicycle and pedestrian fatalities and serious injuries happened between 2015 and 2019 in Charleston County. That is more than any other county in South Carolina.

“The good news is we are we have we are making a lot of progress. We have really wonderful people in elected positions and in planning positions and engineering positions who are working very hard to try to get us protected bike lanes and paths and safe sidewalks and save access to bus stops. We’re not investing enough money in it. But, we’re getting there,” Zimmerman said.

At the council meeting, family and friends of four people killed in traffic accidents brought photos of their loved ones and stood before those leaders advocating for change and expressing gratitude for project work so far.

“At least one of the victims that was represented at the at the meeting I he was a friend of mine,” Zimmerman said.

She notes that the numbers can often stagger like eleven pedestrians have been killed in Charleston County so far in 2023. But she says the realization that there is a person with a life, a family and a purpose behind each number should be even more important.

“These were people who were doing so much for the community. One person was training for the Olympics, one person had donated a kidney. One person developed a group where they were building boats, like reinvigorating the old mosquito fleet and teaching children how to build boats. It’s just that they all contributed so much. So it’s a major loss when you lose just one person,” Zimmerman said.

For the people at the meeting, World Remembrance Day is an opportunity to challenge leaders on what else can be done to prevent traffic deaths.

“Our family joined a growing fraternity that no one would like to be a member of and that’s those who have lost loved ones on the city streets of Charleston. And these were different circumstances in every case, but it was pedestrians, it was bikes, it was joggers, it was shoppers, it was black and white, it was young and old, it affects the whole community and so many of these people were taken before their time with so much yet to contribute to our common life together,” Massie said.

You can learn more about the World Day of Remembrance, here.