Why South Carolina Has Some of the Worst Drivers (and How It Impacts Car Insurance Rates)

There are lots of great things about living in South Carolina, but unfortunately, good drivers are not on the list. According to some new data, South Carolina has some of the worst drivers in the country, ranking third alongside Montana regarding fatalities, reckless driving, and drunk driving.

To make matters grimmer, South Carolina ranks first in accident death rate — 1.73 traffic fatalities per 100 million miles driven, a full 56% higher than the national average, according to Insurify. The study shows South Carolina’s drivers as being only the sixth worst in the nation — not exactly a gold medal, but an improvement nonetheless.

Why are things so bad for drivers in South Carolina? One reason has to do with alcohol-impaired driving. According to the NHTSA, 44% of the traffic fatalities in 2013 were tied to alcohol use. Although that number has been trending downward — 29.6% in 2020 — it still means over 300 alcohol-related driving deaths per year.

Another factor affecting South Carolina’s driving reputation is speeding. Rural states tend to have more bad drivers than dense urban areas, and speeding is one of the reasons. South Carolina hit a low for speeding-related deaths in 2011, with 33.6%, but it’s been on the rise ever since, with speeding-related fatalities at 46.4% in 2020.

South Carolina’s seat belt use statistics are below 50%, which is less than ideal and a major contributor to driving fatalities. The NHTSA cites unrestrained passengers as a significant problem. In 2008, being unrestrained contributed to 65.7% of driving fatalities, with that number having decreased somewhat since but still significant. Similarly, helmet use (or lack thereof) has contributed to a significant number of motorcycle fatalities.

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There is some encouraging news: law enforcement is taking steps to try to bring these numbers down. The same survey from the NHTSA shows that 86% of its respondents felt drunk driving was a major issue and should be a top priority for the police force, and 90% support stronger laws and more severe punishments for DUI convictions.

While low seatbelt use, DUIs, and distracted driving / texting while driving are the biggest contributors to traffic fatalities, there are also factors like road quality, weather such as driving rain, and other factors out of an individual’s control. The state’s roads, in particular, are an issue: a 2019 Consumer Affairs report showed South Carolina as having the worst state roads in the US. Potholes, heavy traffic, uneven roads, and underfunding have all made the state’s roads especially hazardous.


How This Affects Insurance Rates

A high number of expensive claims will eventually bring premiums up for everyone, and South Carolina’s car insurance rates are particularly volatile. While South Carolina’s average annual rate of $1572 isn’t far above the national average according to Kristine Lee from The Zebra, they’ve been steadily increasing — a good reason to shop around and find the best and the cheapest car insurance in South Carolina. With luck, you could get a rate that’s half the national average for minimum coverage.

Running afoul of South Carolina’s traffic laws, however, could raise those rates fast. If you get a DUI conviction in the state, your annual insurance rate could go as high as $3,000 or more. Drivers with bad credit will also have a difficult time, with their premiums going as high as $4,000 annually. Even a traffic ticket or minor violation could bring your rates up by $500.

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So what can you do to bring these rates down? There are a few time-honored techniques for lowering your car insurance premiums:

  • Shop around and compare to see if you can find the same coverage for less.
  • Ask your insurer about discounts for such things as good grades, low mileage, etc.
  • Install a security system on your car.
  • Switch to an older, less expensive vehicle. Cars that cost less to repair also cost less to insure.
  • Take a defensive driving course.
  • Maintain a clean driving record and build good credit.

What’s Being Done About It

There is good new on the horizon for South Carolina’s drivers, though — the state is instituting a number of programs to try to address some of the factors that make the state’s roads so dangerous. For starters, an aggressive campaign to battle DUIs is being put into place, including a high-visibility law enforcement campaign, more checkpoints on the road, more media support for the campaign, and increased funding of DUI enforcement and prosecution.

There is also a plan in place to increase the efficacy of traffic law enforcement, including not only more visible traffic enforcement, but also increased availability of public information, education, and training. This training includes, but is not limited to, specialized DUI enforcement, as well as a greater emphasis on traffic safety, speed enforcement, and more.

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