I am writing this letter in the public interest for the tri-county area to clear up a lot of misunderstanding and some public assumption as to why we have had so many traffic accidents and deaths on our highways and secondary roads. You donít have to agree with me, but consider the following facts and figures. I believe with my training, experience and dedicated qualifications, working with all law enforcement officials and personnel of interest, that the driver behind the wheel is responsible for the majority of accidents, not highway or road conditions, as so many like to blame. True, we donít have the best roads in the nation, but that is not the problem. The Department of Transportation is making progress in improving our roads, and construction always creates hazardous conditions, and I do not feel the four-way stop signs contribute to accidents as much as some intersections that were poorly designed.
I have been a licensed insurance adjuster full-time, have owned and managed an adjusting company, have reconstructed accident scenes, have been a judge on arbitration, vice president of marketing and claims of a major insurance company, statistical research director, advisor to the governor, and the chief insurance commissioner, and have worked closely with the Highway Dept. of South Carolina.
You, the people of Berkeley County, elected me your Coroner, and I was re-elected twice before retiring after serving you for 12 years. I was not a politician, but we cleaned that office up, and it was recognized four times nationwide for what we did for the people. It was my heartbreaking duty to investigate almost every conceivable type of accident and death, many of which were caused by pure carelessness and irresponsible drivers.
The section of I-26 from the I-95 intersection of Charleston, east and west, is the section waiting for an accident to happen to due to speed, fatigue, going to sleep after driving all night, trucks running side by side blocking vision, small vehicles running 85 to 95 mph in a 70 mph zone, losing control and trying to recover. Those trees donít move, the driver and passengers do when rescue and the coroner leave the scene to notify a loved one. Sounds cruel? Then think about the next time you drink and drive, run stop signs or try to speed up to beat a red light or go down the highway with a phone crammed in your ear or texting and not paying attention to your responsibility as a driver. These are wonderful gadgets, but there is a time and place for all and you donít have to endanger someone elseís life to show you have some degree of common sense with attitude of being responsible for your actions.
Listen to the state troopers and other law enforcement officers. They are trying to save lives and prevent accidents.
What kind of driver are you? Do you feel you are an exception to the rules of being courteous and considerate? Do you take the attitude that no one is going to tell me I MUST wear a seatbelt or a helmet when riding a motorcycle? Sometimes I wish some of our drivers would have had the opportunity to observe a scene that was repeated thousands of times, when the first responders, EMS, troopers and other law enforcement and the coroner have lived through it so many times. If you donít value or care for your own life or well-being, then try to think about your loved ones that have to depend on you.
Wade C. Arnette
Former Berkeley County Coroner