Another Fatality on US Highway 17 - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

07/05/05

Another Fatality on US Highway 17

Fatal wrecks on US Highway 17 near Gardens Corner, South Carolina, are becoming far too common. The latest accident happened early this morning. That makes the fifth fatality on that highway within two weeks.

The question everyone is asking: how many people are going to have to die before something is done? We did speak with a few of our lawmakers today, and they all know about the problem and are looking for ways to get the money to four-lane that highway.

Drivers are fed up with the wrecks.

"It gets frustrating, because it seems like every other accident is a fatality and no one seems to want to do anything about the road," said Dale Cullen.

Cullen should know. He runs a towing business near Gardens Corner and has to pick up vehicles after they look like this one, destroyed early this morning when a big rig crossed the center line.

Police say Lashawnda Fields of Yemassee, 25, swerved to avoid the truck but lost control and smashed head on into an oncoming car. She died in the crash, and the other driver was airlifted to Memorial Health in Savannah.

"You don't get in a wreck on that road and not get beat up pretty bad," said Cullen.

And he, like many others, wants the problem fixed. "They just need to widen the stupid road," said truck driver Walter Lee Thompson. "There's places on that road where both of my tires are on the line on both sides at the same time."

"People say it's not the road's fault, but there's no room, no margin for error on that road," said Cullen. "It's just a bad road."

Everyone knows this highway is dangerous. Since 1997, 32 people have been killed there. Now that number is 33, but that doesn't count all the hundreds of accidents that don't turn fatal.

"It's pretty much on a weekly basis," said Cullen. "You can bank on one, two, three, sometimes fatalities. Sometimes not, but majority are fatal."

The South Carolina Highway Patrol is looking for the truck driver responsible for causing today's accident. If you have any information, they're asking you to call their Ridgeland office at 843.726.8076.

We talked with South Carolina Rep. Catherine Ceips (R-Beaufort), who has been working to start up an advocacy group to four-lane the highway. After pushing, she says the Department of Transportation is going to be putting rumble strips in the no-passing zones to help avoid some of these head-on collisions.

She says she knows that's just a bandage, but she and many other legislators are trying to earmark money to fully widen that stretch of highway.

Reported by: Jaime Dailey, jdailey@wtoc.com

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