This just in: Trees don’t jump out into the road to cause wrecks.
A number of people are driving home that point as we continue to report fatalities along Interstate 95 in Jasper County’s “coffin corridor.”
It happened again last week, when a Ridgeland woman’s car left the southbound lanes of I-95 near Hardeeville. She was killed when the car hit a tree.
Don’t blame the tree, people say. It was the car that left the roadway.
I get that.
But that’s not the point.
An inordinate number of people have been killed on I-95 in Jasper County, and nothing has been done about it. That’s the point.
I-95 is South Carolina’s deadliest highway. The primary north-south artery is a narrow, pock-marked disgrace in this state, especially when compared to Georgia and North Carolina.
And the worst of is right here, at the doorsteps to beach.
No, the trees don’t lunge at cars. But so many of them lurk terribly close to the highway that the outrageous, deadly statistics should be making heads turn in Columbia.
Jasper County is only the fifth-most likely South Carolina county on I-95 for you to have an accident. But it is a clear No. 1 in fatalities.
And three out of four of those fatalities involve vehicles hitting trees.
More than a third of all tree-related fatalities in the state in recent years happened in Jasper County. But the county’s stretch of I-95 makes up less than 18 percent of the interstate’s footprint in South Carolina.
The death last week of a friendly elementary school cafeteria cashier was at least the 18th tree-related death in Jasper County in the past six years.
South Carolina has designed and erected no barriers. It didn’t even know how many trees were within 30 feet of I-95 in Jasper County when our newspaper analyzed the problem last year. The accepted 30-foot threshold for safety does not appear to be the norm here, despite statistics showing it to be the deadliest section of the deadliest road in the state.
Is it only in Jasper County that I-95 motorists doze off, send a text, blow tires, exceed the speed limit, dodge a pothole? No. But it’s more likely to cost you your life in Jasper County.
Meanwhile, South Carolina’s system for funding roads is finally getting a bit of attention in the General Assembly.
It’s a system dominated by old-boy politics. A tiny number of senior legislators control how billions are spent. Why not depend on cold facts and data-driven rankings? That’s not the South Carolina way. We prefer roads to nowhere; sons-in-law with lucrative, sweetheart contracts; and building new roads rather than repairing and maintaining the ones we’ve got.
That’s why the power structure in this state wants to jack up the state gas tax. They want more money pouring into their slush fund.
They’ll give it up when pigs fly, and trees dance in I-95.
1Jasper County ranks first in fatalities on I-95 in South Carolina, yet it is only the fifth-most likely county to have a crash.
75Percentage of fatalities on I-95 in Jasper County involving trees.
36Percentage of tree-related fatalities in South Carolina that happened in Jasper County.