Crossing Main Street in downtown Summerville is a little like walking across an alligator swamp dripping in steak sauce.
Sadly, I’m afraid to report, Summerville is not alone in this state. According to several recent reports, South Carolina has among the worst drivers in the country.
The website carinsurancecomparison.com ranks South Carolina as having the second worst drivers in the country.
Alaska occupies the number one position for having the worst drivers in the U.S., according to the annual study.
But among the lower 48, our state leads the way, followed by New Mexico, Louisiana, North Carolina and Nevada rounding out the five worst states for driving.
Another study by smartasset.com ranks South Carolina just out of the bottom 10, thanks to our miserable drunken driving habits. According to the study released in November, 4.34 drivers out of 1,000 were arrested on DUI charges. Mississippi took the number one spot for having the worst drivers in that nation.
And, according to the weekly reports that I get from the SC Department of Public Safety, things are not trending any better.
“As of December 30, 989 people have died on South Carolina highways, compared to 988 highway deaths during the same time period in 2017,” the most recent report states.
Those fatalities include 150 pedestrians, according to state officials. Counting just the motor vehicle occupants who died in 2018, 348 were not wearing seat belts.
Neighboring Dorchester County, saw an increase in traffic fatalities over last year, but trended down over the last four years: 2015: 33; 2016: 30; 2017: 15; 2018: 21.
Berkeley County saw a similar trend despite having more fatalities: 2015:35, 2016:36; 2017:34; 2018:34.
Truth be told, my daughter asked me to write this column. She drives from Summerville to Mt. Pleasant everyday for work, so she frequently witnesses some of the most deplorable driving our region has to offer.
“Dad, you should write about how bad drivers are,” I think were her exact words.
I am certain that, like her, you have seen plenty of knuckleheads on our local roads.
Consequently, I’ve developed a list of reminders to help us all do our part to make our roads safe.
First: Buckle up. It takes only seconds and it saves lives. See stats above.
Second: Use your flipping mirrors. For everything that you consider holy, use your mirrors.
As many of you know, I commute to work and back on a motorcycle. Don’t tell my wife, but I’ve had quite a few near misses thanks to idiots who don’t look. Granted, motorcycles are invisible, but still, come on people: use your mirrors.
Third: Use your mirrors, did I mention that?
Fourth: If you have the right of way, take it. If you don’t, don’t. I know we live in the South and people are a little more cordial here; it’s something we Southerners pride ourselves on, but I refuse to break the right-of-way rule just because you’re waving me through. Stop holding up traffic just to be kind to me. I’d rather wait and live than gamble on your kindness and get t-boned by the garbage truck I can’t see because you’re blocking my view, just go. Go, for heaven’s sake. Just go.
That said, fifth: Stop at stop signs. I know, right? Stop means stop.
Sixth: Stop at red lights — even when you’re turning right.
Seventh: Stop for pedestrians. Really this should be first. We keep talking about making our town a walkable town, where you get the things you need by taking a short walk. Well, that’s kind of hard to do when you are dead.
Please, when you see someone in a crosswalk, display some of that Southern charm and let them cross. This includes crosswalks at Walmart and other shopping centers. Yes, you might miss that open spot and have to park another 50 feet away, but we can all probably use the exercise.
Next, obey the speed limit.
Let me qualify that, Obey the speed limit on Bacons Bridge Road, when I am driving my motorcycle at 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. every weekday. I know, it’s hard to figure out; some places it’s 35 miles per hour, then it switches to 45 miles per hour, but it’s never 55 miles per hour or higher. Slow it down.
Note to Summerville police, you didn’t hear it from me, but did you know that people regularly drive 55 or more in the 35/45 miles per hour zone on Bacons Bridge.
Addendum to Summerville Police note above: Motorcyclists wearing black helmets and driving black motorcycles never break the speed limit on Bacons Bridge Road at 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. every weekday, so you can just ignore them.
What are we up to eighth, ninth? When it’s raining, which it does from time to time around here, turn your lights on — not your hazard lights. Like we don’t know it’s raining.
It’s illegal in many states — although not specifically addressed in South Carolina laws — to drive in the rain with your hazards on.
Here is what AAA says about SC hazard light rules: “Hazard lights may be used while driving for the purpose of warning the operators of other vehicles of the presence of a vehicular traffic hazard requiring the exercise of unusual care in approaching, overtaking or passing.
Save your hazards for when you’re hauling that trailer that doesn’t have working tail lights.
In the rain, though, it’s distracting and causes other drivers to break suddenly, and it prevents you from letting other drivers know when you are making a lane change.
Finally: I mentioned the mirrors thing, right?
Look, our county is booming and we’ve got more people moving here every day. Many of them are bringing their ridiculous driving habits with them — I’m talking to you Ohio.
Please do your part to set the example. And in the words of Sgt. Phil Esterhaus, “Let’s be careful out there.”
We’ve got a whole year to improve some of those statistics.