Jasper County coroner, drivers speak out on dangers of driving on Hwy 17

JASPER CO., SC (WTOC) - Drivers are speaking out on the dangers of traveling on U.S. Highway 17 after one of our own, Don Logana, was tragically killed in a head-on collision Sunday near the Talmadge Bridge in South Carolina.

We spoke with O.C. Welch on Tuesday, a man involved in a fatal crash in that same location nearly 10 years ago who claims the narrow roads are to blame.

Welch says there is no way that he could have avoided the car that swerved into his lane of traffic to avoid another car in 2005 and hit him head-on. He says he knew it was coming but had no way of avoiding it because the lanes are so narrow and there's hardly a shoulder because of the swamp. Sadly, one person in the other vehicle died.

O.C.'s frustrated because he says South Carolina DOT has done nothing to make this road safer, more than a decade after his crash.

"What matters is... there's nowhere to go. It's in the middle of a swamp to start with. It's not going to be any better any better until it is four-lanes," said Welch.

Although the bridge was widened, he says that only made people drive faster onto what is still a very narrow and dangerous road.

"It's definitely the worst stretch of road in the Lowcountry when it comes to fatalities," said Jasper County Coroner Martin Sauls.

Sauls says Highway 17, between Okatie Highway and Talmadge Bridge, was not originally designed to handle the amount of traffic it sees today. The two-lane road is very narrow and the marsh on either side leaves drivers with hardly any room for error.

Drivers like O.C. Welch believe late-night clubs are only making the problem worse.  He and his son were involved in a fatal crash back in 2005.

"It was right there in front of one those strip joints," Welch said.

He says there are a lot of folks coming and going at all hours, even on foot. Sauls says he's also seen a spike in the number of pedestrians killed in this area.

"When I responded to the Logana accident Sunday morning, I encountered three pedestrians walking toward the state line," Sauls said.

Even though the Back River Bridge was recently widened, Welch says that exacerbated the problem. Drivers now speed up on the bridge, thinking they have more room, only to find a narrow road on the other side.

Despite pushing lawmakers to make changes to this road more than 10 years ago, he says this is the same deadly stretch of road today as it was then.

But he's not giving up.

"I am reaching out to Governor Deal and Gov. Haley and Mike Pence and Donald Trump to do something about that road because I promise you, Don Logana will not be the last person to die on that road," Welch said.

It's an unsettling reality that Sauls fears to be true until something is done to make this road safer.

"I think widening the road would certainly help, making it a four-lane," said Sauls.

Copyright 2016 WTOC. All rights reserved.