• 9 Investigates: No changes to deadly stretch of SC highway despite 14 killed, hundreds injured

    Updated:

    YORK COUNTY, S.C. - Just this week, two serious accidents on Highway 5 shut down the road in Lancaster County, and sent one person to the hospital.   

    [SC troopers: 3 killed, 1 injured in two separate New Year's Day crashes in York County]

    Highway 5 from Rock Hill to Lancaster County is a narrow, two-lane road that's been called dangerous and unsafe for decades. 

    Now, growth in York and Lancaster counties is adding about 1,000 more cars a day to the road each year.  

    The stretch of road is just 7 miles, but some drivers go 20 minutes out of their way to avoid it.

    "It’s pretty scary sometimes,” said Gloria Johnson, who owns the R&K Express store on Highway 5. “I hear sirens about every day out here.”

    The road has been dotted with crosses over the years, marking fatalities.

    There are no lights, no guardrails, and, in places, no shoulder. 

    Embankments drop off 20 to 30 feet in spots.

    Channel 9 asked the South Carolina Department of Transportation for numbers, and learned that from 2008 to 2018, on the short stretch from Highway 21 in Rock Hill to Highway 521 in Lancaster County there were 452 crashes.

    More than 280 people were injured and 14 died.

    Cam McGuirt, who works at a plumbing business on Highway 5, said his plumbers sometimes have to serve as first responders.

    "We've seen a fatality down at the bridge. We've also had one right above us," McGuirt said. "The owner has put out fires. We've pulled trucks out of ditches, all kinds of stuff, stopped traffic."

    Traffic on Highway 5 has increased substantially in recent years.

    At the Catawba River Bridge, traffic counts have soared from 10,400 vehicles a day in 2014 to 14,100 in 2017. 

    Those traffic numbers surprised county leaders; the road has never been on York County's Pennies for Progress list, which collects sales tax to fund road improvements. 

    Officials with Pennies for Progress told Channel 9 that despite the issues on Highway 5, it's never been a top priority because busier roads get more complaints.

    The SCDOT plans to repave a roughly three-mile section on the Lancaster side of the Catawba River this year, but there are no plans for further improvements, even in the state's 10-year plan for projects.

    The highway has heavy log truck traffic because of a paper mill on the Catawba River, but most accidents don't involve log trucks.

    "It's just people not paying attention to what's in front of them," Johnson said.  "It's just the way it is. That's Highway 5."

    Less than a decade ago, the state rebuilt and widened the Highway 5 bridge over the Catawba River.  Many who drive it said even if it can't be widened, even guardrails would prevent some serious accidents or deaths.

    Local and state leaders told Channel 9 they want to hear about safety concerns about the road, and they often plan improvements based on public comments.

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