CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD)- 2021 was the deadliest year on South Carolina roadways, according to data from the South Carolina Department of Public Safety.

With only one day left to go in the year, 1005 fatal traffic accidents have been reported in South Carolina, resulting in 1080 deaths which surpasses the totals for any of the past five years. 2021 also eclipsed the record high of 1,077 deaths set in 2007.

Total number of traffic fatalities for the past five years:

  • 2017: 989 deaths
  • 2018: 1036 deaths
  • 2019: 1006 deaths
  • 2020: 1067 deaths

Trooper Nick Pye of the South Carolina Highway Patrol said that even one fatality is one too many.

“Any time we have a high number of fatalities which unfortunately we have been dealing with that for a while now is a concern for us,” he said. “Ultimately, our goal is Target Zero and one is too many.”

South Carolina averaged nearly 3 traffic fatalities per day, up slightly from 2020 which averaged 2.8 per day.

A number of factors can contribute to a traffic fatality but among the most common are speeding, distracted driving, and driving under the influence.

“Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, it’s caused by someone making a poor decision,” Pye said. “We don’t have a whole lot of accidents, we have collisions, and collisions are caused by something.”

Pye added that not wearing a seatbelt could very well be the difference between life and death in traffic collisions and it is much easier to be ejected from a vehicle than one might think.

Nearly half of passengers involved in a fatal traffic accident this year were not wearing their seatbelts. Of 714 passengers who had access to a seatbelt, 352 were not wearing one.

“Not wearing your seatbelt is not going to cause you to get into a collision, but if you don’t have your seatbelt on and someone else is driving under the influence or texting on their cellphone or driving above the speed limit and they hit you, you can save your own life potentially by wearing your seatbelt,” he said.

Charleston County had 68 traffic-related deaths, second only to Greenville County which had 87 fatalities so far this year.

There were 32 traffic fatalities reported in Berkeley County and Dorchester County had slightly fewer with 25 deaths.

The number of pedestrians killed as a result of crashes—175 people— was fewer than in 2020 which saw 187 pedestrian fatalities, however, more motorcyclists (149) and bicyclists (18) were killed on South Carolina roadways this year than the previous year at 114 and 16 people respectively.

Ahead of the New Year, Pye had a clear message for South Carolinians.

“Driving is the most dangerous thing the normal person will do on a daily basis,” he said. “You have to be safe and you have to take the initiative to drive safe.”

Full data can be accessed on the South Carolina Department of Public Safety dashboard.