Aiken has enjoyed the recognition of ranking very highly on several lists in recent years.
The city was named Southern Living’s Best Small Town in 2018.
Aiken is also consistently ranked as a top place to retire by various groups and publications.
But a recent report that listed Aiken as 13th among its “worst driving cities in South Carolina” is nothing to crow about. More than 2 million data points were used in the study, and focused on accidents, speeding tickets, DUIs, citations and fatalities.
An analyst for QuoteWizard, an online insurance comparison site that released the study, cited proximity to Interstate 20 (and the high rate of traffic) as one of the reasons Aiken fared poorly.
Lt. Jake Mahoney of the Aiken Department of Public Safety said speeding, following too close, not obeying traffic signs and signals, and driving under the influence are among the violations that cause the most problems.
As a whole, South Carolina is ranked the second-worst driving state because of the high number of fatal crashes caused by drunken driving.
Maine, in case you were wondering, is home to the worst drivers in the nation, according to the study. Michigan is ranked the best.
Around Aiken, it’s easy to observe plenty of violations almost anytime one gets behind the wheel. Speeding and tailgating, not to mention those who don’t use turn signals, are constant problems.
Part of the charm of Aiken is its one-way streets and traffic circles. Those can cause confusion for newcomers, but the rules can easily be learned. And don’t forget that Aiken is home to plenty who walk, ride bicycles and even ride their horses across some of the busiest roads.
Distracted driving is also a serious issue. With the advent of technology, cellphones can create a real hazard if drivers are more focused on those than the road.
South Carolina doesn’t allow texting and driving, and it needs to get with the times and pass a hands-free law. Most states already have a ban on texting while driving, including South Carolina. But the Palmetto State doesn’t even restrict drivers under 18 or school bus drivers, as most states do, from using cellphones while driving.
Neighboring Georgia is among the 20 states that has a hand-held cellphone use ban for all drivers, according to data provided by the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Aiken lawmaker Bill Taylor, a member of the S.C. House of Representatives, is hopeful that a distracted-driving bill he first introduced in 2018 will finally pass.
The original version of the bill was “sidewhacked,” Taylor said, by his colleagues in the House. He enlisted the help of state Sen. Tom Young, and the South Carolina Hands-Free Act bill is moving forward. It is scheduled to be discussed at a special hearing later this month.
The law would make it illegal to hold a phone, call, text, watch video, email or use the internet while driving.
Let’s hope that South Carolina passes the measure, and that Aiken drivers take steps to improve their driving.
It’s already a great place to live, and there’s no reason the roads can’t be safer, too.