CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – On August 31, 2020, experienced bicyclist Kris Cotton was riding along Savannah Highway.
“He had a full rig, he had safety gear, he had a flag on his rig… he couldn’t have been more conspicuous,” said Jeff Gerardi, an attorney with the Joye Law Firm.
Cotton did everything right, but nothing could have prepared him for what happened when the driver of a nearby SUV cut it too close.
Cotton was hit and died at the scene, but his best friend — a puppy he found in Mexico and brought along on every ride — survived.
Cotton is just one of 14 bicyclists killed on average each year in South Carolina.
Another bicyclist, Silas Carson who was killed in December on the same road, joins the list.
While some regions get safer each year, the U.S. Department of Transportation reports from 2017-2018 revealed that the southeast saw a 3% increase in fatal accidents.
Locally, things are even worse.
“Charleston County is the most dangerous county in the state for people walking or biking,” said Charleston County bike safety advocate, Katie Zimmerman.
She says this is a problem that must be fixed one lane, one stoplight, one mile at a time.
“Infrastructure needs to change; every street, every bridge in the Charleston region must accommodate multiple modes of transportation and must do so safely.”Katie Zimmerman
Gerardi says the problem can get even worse if the cases go to court.
“There are a lot of people that have a bias against bicyclists, motorcyclists, almost. It’s sad to say, but people have this attitude that you got what you were asking for.”
Now, he is looking for help from Columbia.
“Specifically, a hands free law, which there is really no reason not to have it; states like Georgia that have passed it, that basically require that if you have a device it runs through your Bluetooth, they have noticed a market decrease in fatalities and injuries,” he said.
While these laws won’t bring Cotton or Carson back, advocates hope they inspire changes for the better.
If you are interested in helping with the cause, go to charlestonmoves.org.