Despite advancements in car safety and road safety technologies, U.S. roads are still becoming more dangerous. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, traffic deaths in the U.S. are on the rise, with an estimated 20,175 people dying from car accidents from January 2022 to June 2022. The number of fatal car accidents often has much to do with the population, yet this year marked the highest increase on record.

The increase in road fatalities is mainly due to Americans spending most of their time on the road. Rapid development in car safety and comfort levels meant road users traveled 43.2 billion more miles in the first half of 2022 than in previous years. Yet, one state has stood out when tallying the number of traffic deaths in the U.S. 

South Carolina’s increasing traffic death rates

car accidents, car safety, maintenance

Traffic in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina | Sean Rayford/Getty Images

According to the NHTSA‘s crash stats for the first half of 2022, the state of South Carolina had a total of 517 traffic deaths in the first half of 2022. 

Simultaneously, according to the NHTSA report, the fatality rate of traffic deaths in South Carolina was 1.71 for the same period. This fatality rate is a metric used to measure the number of deaths per 100 million Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) in the first half of 2022. The fatality rate has increased mainly because many U.S. drivers increasingly spend a lot of time on the road daily, thus increasing the risks of traffic deaths.

The main difference between the total traffic deaths and death rates is that the traffic death rates are calculated based on factors such as time. On the other hand, total deaths are simply a tally conducted on the number of road fatalities within the same timeframe as the fatality rate calculations. Having the highest number of total traffic deaths doesn’t guarantee the highest death rate due to the factors involved in rate calculations.

Other states with high traffic death rates

South Carolina leads with the highest traffic death rate in the first half of 2022. This table depicts the top five states with the highest total number of traffic deaths and traffic death rates for the first half of 2022.

State Traffic Deaths Per 100 Million VMT Total Traffic Deaths
South Carolina 1.71 517
Mississippi 1.64 341
Arkansas 1.63 286
Louisiana 1.59 432
Florida 1.58 1,951

The most dangerous South Carolina roads

But traffic deaths began to rise around 2015. A likely reason: Distracted driving. That’s around the same time that smartphones became ubiquitous.

— David Leonhardt (@DLeonhardt) August 23, 2022

Based on historical data from the NHTSA, it is easy to follow a pattern and pinpoint which roads bear the heaviest risks against motorists and car safety. Below are some of the most dangerous roads for motorists in South Carolina.

U.S. 17 Coastal Highway

This highway runs via South Carolina from Georgia to North Carolina. U.S. 17 passes via major cities in South Carolina, such as Hardeeville, Myrtle Beach, and Charleston. During the summers between 2015 and 2017 alone, this highway witnessed about 82 fatalities. Causes of road accidents on U.S. 17 Coastal Highway include tourism and new road users from other areas unfamiliar with the route.


This highway runs from Charleston to Lundrum via Columbia. I-26 is among the most dangerous highways in South Carolina and has experienced an estimated 51 facilities during the summers of 2015, 2016, and 2017. The leading cause of road fatalities in I-26 is insufficient (or the lack of) guard wires and guardrails to reduce the impact of crashes. 

S.C. 9

This highway starts in North Myrtle Beach and runs against the North Carolina border. The intersection where it meets State Highway 410 tends to be prone to accidents compared to other spots.

What about states with the lowest traffic death rates?

At the bottom of the list is Rhode Island, with its total traffic number at 14 and traffic death rate at 0.38 for the first half of 2022. Rhode Islanders drive fewer miles than in other states. Furthermore, the drivers don’t spend much time on the road, thus keeping the traffic death rate and number low.


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