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Washington, DC (WLTX) -- A report published today by a national non-profit transportation research group says South Carolina has the highest fatality rate on rural roads in the country.

The study of 2012 roadway data by transportation research group TRIP shows that traffic-related fatalities are highest on South Carolina's rural roads (non-interstate,) in their new report: "Rural Connections: Challenges and Opportunities in America's Heartland."

TRIP was created in 1971 as a non-profit organization to research, evaluate, and distribute economic and technical data on surface transportation issues. Funding for the organization comes from the insurance industry, manufacturers, and distributors, all with connections to or involved in highway transit engineering and construction.

The data is based upon number of fatalities for every 100 million vehicle miles of travel, showing that here, there is a traffic fatality rate of 3.99 deaths per 100 miles driven on South Carolina's rural, non-interstate roads. This is the highest rate nationally, and almost six times higher than the fatality

The report shows the nation's rural areas lack safety features, include structurally deficient bridges, and are in serious need of improvements. The report also demonstrates the use of rural roads by agricultural and shipping transporters, for necessary things like transporting livestock and locally grown foods, all expanding at higher rates than road improvements.

May 19th Report: Why Are the State's Roads in Such Bad Shape?

May 4th Report: What's The Real Cost To Fix SC's Roads?

"On our Secondary (Rural) Roadway System that is federal-aid eligible 31% were poor and only 19% were in good condition in 2008; and lapsed to 50% poor and 20% good condition in 2013," said Eric Dickey, chairman of the South Carolina Alliance to Fix Our Roads (SCFOR). "This is compound by our Secondary (Rural) Roadway System that is non-federal-aid eligible with 33% poor and only 14% good in 2008; and lapsed to 50% poor and 10% good in 2013. While South Carolina struggles to maintain its Interstate and Primary roadway systems the Rural roadways are neglected and continue to deteriorate."

Analysis: Nation's Bridges Desperately Need Repair

More: Website Wants Your Opinions of S.C. Roads

The latest report shows the nationwide average of high volume heavy trucks on rural roadways has increased by 16% between 2000 and 2012.

In 2012, non-Interstate rural roads in South Carolina had a traffic fatality rate of 3.99 deaths for every 100 million vehicle miles of travel.

"America's rural transportation system is an integral component to the success and quality of life for U.S. farmers and ranchers," said Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation. "Adequate roads and bridges are necessary to deliver our agricultural bounty to markets at home and abroad. As we see additional growth and opportunities in rural America, we must work together to take advantage of those opportunities and to ensure that infrastructure supports and enhances our rural communities."

We in South Carolina, along with all other states, are reliant upon the federal surface transportation program, the Highway Account portion of the federal Highway Trust Fund, for funding of rural roads. Nationwide feral funding for highways is supported by this fund, as a reimbursement program for states to improve roadways. That Highway Account is expected to hit a shortfall before the end of fiscal year 2014, and will require Congressional support to avoid delays in those federal reimbursements to states for roadway, highway, and bridge improvement projects.

Reimbursements to all states for transportation infrastructure improvements are a vital element to state budgets.

According to the TRIP report, this could mean as much as a $633 million shortfall for South Carolina's highway and transit improvements programs.

"The safety and quality of life in America's small communities and rural areas and the health of the nation's economy ride on our rural transportation system," said Will Wilkins, executive director of TRIP. "The nation's rural roads provide crucial links from farm to market, move manufactured and energy products, and provide access to countless tourist and recreational destinations." Wilkins went on to say: "Funding the modernization of our rural transportation system will create jobs and help ensure long-term economic development and quality of life in rural America."

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