Motorcycle safety a top of mind issue for SC as crash fatalities rise

Both law enforcement and advocates are raising the alarm, especially because they say summer is the worst season for crashes on both 2 and 4 wheels
Published: Jun. 21, 2022 at 3:16 AM EDT
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GREENVILLE, S.C. (FOX Carolina) - Scott Wade says losing his son Hampton in 2018, at just 20 years old, changed him forever.

“There’s a before that happens, and there’s life after that happens,” he told FOX Carolina. “And it’s never the same. He’s gone. I can’t bring him back.”

Hampton was killed in a motorcycle crash.

“A guy not paying attention turned left in his path, cut him off, threw him back off the car,” Scott painfully recalled.

Despite his young age, Scott says his son had a lot of experience on bikes already. He was also wearing a helmet, doing everything right that he could to stay safe. =

“We have a problem,” Wade said. “And bikers pay the biggest price because they have the least protection.”

The Insurance Institute for Highway safety says South Carolina ranks number 1 in the entire US for motorcycle collisions per 100 million miles driven; 4th in the US in motorcycle deaths per 100,000 people.

“Nine times out of ten, some of us know who it was,” said Jane Robinson. “And no one wants to go to the funeral of a fellow motorcyclist who many of us probably know and love.”

Robinson is the secretary of the Motorcycle Awareness Alliance, a grassroots advocacy group based out of Anderson. She says they’ve been trying to raise the alarm about this issue for more than 10 years.

“The ultimate aim is to cut down on accidents,” Robinson said. “Mainly the ones that end with ‘I didn’t see you.’”

The MAA’s slogan is ‘Look Twice, Save a Life.’ Both Robinson and Wade says they want stiffer penalties for 4-wheel vehicles when they’re responsible for causing accidents, like the one that killed Scott’s son.

“The man who killed my son got a $230 fine and a citation,” Scott said. “And we had to fight to make that stick.

He says the issue is that many of these cases, when it’s deemed “accidental,” are not prosecuted in the same way that a 4-wheel vehicle on 4-wheel vehicle crash might be, particularly when there’s a fatality involved. Most motorcycle cases end up in traffic court.

“Lower the definition of “reckless” in South Carolina, so that there’s some comprehensible penalty that will make someone pay attention,” Wade said, when asked for an example of what he’d like to see instead.

In the meantime, South Carolina Highway Patrol Master Trooper Mitch Ridgeway says there are things you can do to be safer on a bike.

“I believe if everyone had to wear a helmet, we’d probably save some lives,” Ridgeway told FOX Carolina. “Especially with these low speed collisions.”

He also adds: you can enroll in a rider safety education course, and put down your cell phone. Ridgeway says the summer time is when we see the most collisions on both 2 and 4 wheels.

SCHP is also in the midst of the 100 Deadliest Days of Summer campaign, so they’re stepping things up while people are out doing summer activities, and travelling on SC roads.

“We have more troopers on the roadways really focusing on speeding, seatbelts, distracted driving and impaired driving,” he said.

“You don’t want to be the person that’s taken a life,” Wade added. “You don’t want to be the family that’s lost a loved one.”

State legislators FOX Carolina reached out to point towards the Hands-Free bill, which was debated in the General Assembly this year but failed to pass. They say passing it would curb many of the bad behaviors that lead to cyclists and bikers getting killed.

Advocates, however, say there’s still a lot more we could be doing.