HORRY COUNTY, SC (WBTW) – The South Carolina Department of Public Safety data shows four people died in collisions in 2020, while there were no fatal collisions in 2019 along the main part of Highway 31, or the Carolina Bays Parkway.
After concerns from some viewers over a lack of lighting along the road, News13 spoke with the South Carolina Department of Transportation and Horry County Planning and Zoning officials to find out if they have a plan to make the road safer.
As reported by News13 previously, there have been multiple wrecks along Highway 31 over the past year, including one where the driver was killed trying to merge onto Highway 707 from SC31, and one where three were killed on Highway 31 in Little River last week after a head-on collision.
“We do know that rural road safety is a problem in South Carolina as well as nationally,” said SCDOT director of traffic engineering, Rob Perry.
After the increase in collisions, and viewers concerned over a possible lack of lighting on the road, News13 asked SCDOT if lighting is a part of their rural road safety projects that they’re currently dedicating $50 million a year to.
Despite the increase in deadly collisions along the main part of Highway 31 on Carolina Bays Parkway, SCDOT and Horry County Planning and Zoning say there isn’t currently a plan to add lighting along the road just yet.
Perry and South Carolina Highway Patrol Trooper Brian Lee agree, they don’t have enough data to contribute a lack of lighting to the increase in collisions and say most collisions are due to speeding, distracted driving or bad weather.
“You know, 31 really feels like a rural setting than a lot of areas. So, just because the crashes are at night, I wouldn’t say that night is the only factor,” said Perry.
In fact, Perry says COVID-19 has caused an increase in people speeding because not many folks are on the road.
“It’s disturbing,” he said. Plus, Perry says lighting Highway 31 would cost between $8 and $10 million.
“Lighting’s very expensive. It’s around 300,000 miles,” Perry said. “Highway 31 is 28 miles long. Most folks don’t think about how long that is.”
He says SCDOT would also want to look at five years of collision data from the road before making a decision to add lighting.
“If we come back through and identify that as a safety project, we’ll look at every tool in our toolbox to try and reduce fatal crashes,” Perry pointed out.
Perry says Highway 31 currently has paved shoulders, rumble strips and cable that help in protecting people from driving off the road.