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Traffic deaths up during "Deadliest Days" of summer

Traffic fatalities are on the rise in the area and are up 200 percent over last year in York County during what the South Carolina Highway Patrol calls the "100 Deadly Days of Summer."

Since Memorial Day, 11 people have died in crashes in York County.

Highway Patrol worked six of those, said Lance Cpl. Billy Elder. Last year during the "Deadly Days," the time between Memorial and Labor days, the patrol worked only two traffic deaths in York County.

The Deadly Days end today, as does a weekend of heightened enforcement in hopes of reducing the number of drunk drivers, speeders and crashes, Elder said.

Lancaster County has already beaten last year's deadly crash total - nine fatal crashes in 2010 - with 11 deadly collisions from January through the end of August of this year. The number of crashes this summer is double last year's from two to four, Elder said.

Chester County, however, has seen a reduction in deadly crashes this summer compared to last year, Elder said. There's been only one during the "Deadly Days," down from two last year. The county saw 11 fatalities in 2010, and this year, only four have occurred.

York County's first deadly crash this summer took the life of 18-year-old Fort Mill High School graduate Jimmy Zacharias. He was driving on S.C. 160 when he swerved to avoid a bicyclist, hit a utility pole and overturned.

During the deadliest days, five of the 11 people who died in York County were on bikes - motorcycles, mopeds and bicycles. Three were moped riders. Two of the crashes happened on S.C. 901 near Herlong Road in the city of Rock Hill.

York County has seen a slight increase in deaths on roadways this year compared with the same time last year. As of this week, 18 people have died in 2011. That's three more deadly crashes compared with 2010, when 16 people died in 15 crashes, Elder said.

In half of this year's crashes, alcohol has played a role, Elder said. That's up from one-third of the 15 crashes at this time in 2010.

"That's not a good spike," Elder said. "We're still predominately seeing DUI, speed and seat belt as major factors in these deadly crashes."

Those are factors troopers target with enforcement and education in hopes of reducing fatal crash situations.

South Carolina traffic fatalities have increased compared to the numbers at this time last year.

Preliminary statewide figures from Jan. 1 to Sept. 1 show that seven more people have died this year compared with the same time in 2010, according to the South Carolina Department of Public Safety.

As of Sunday, 533 people have died on South Carolina's highways (pedestrians, cyclists, motorists, motorcyclists, etc.), compared with 526 deaths during the same calendar months last year.

Of those 533 deaths, 372 people were occupants in motor vehicles, with 185 not wearing seat belts.

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