GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA) – Preliminary data gathered by the South Carolina Department of Public Safety revealed some good news for the state in 2022, with an exception for drivers in one Upstate county.

Every day you have a choice and it is one that begins each time you get behind the wheel.

“Every choice you make in life impacts somebody else,” Kevin Underhill, Greenville County EMS, said.

Underhill is the Director of Operations for Greenville County Emergency Medical Services.

However, before he puts on his uniform each day he lives his life as a son, a husband, and most importantly a father.

In 2012, Underhill’s son, Chase, was killed in a crash. It was one that he said was caused by reckless driving.

It’s a call he told 7NEWS he will never forget.

“I can still remember the call. It’s one of those instances where things you see, you don’t forget,” Underhill said.

Although Underhill did not respond as an EMT, he did arrive that day as a dad.

Now he is using his family’s experience to teach others the importance of traffic safety.

It is an initiative known as ‘Choices for Chase,’ reminding us all how every choice, even the small ones, have the ability to change your life.

“Your choice—to read a text, turn the radio, anything that takes your eyes off the road is a choice that you are making. And that choice is going to impact somebody else,” Underhill said. “It might not be a death. It might not be an event that, you know, is catastrophic, but it could be.” 

According to the South Carolina Highway Patrol, there are several factors that contribute to traffic fatalities, including distracted, impaired or reckless driving and disobeying the laws.

Troopers said, oftentimes, those crashes are preventable.

“When you’re out here driving around, drive like your family is in these other cars and other trucks when you are riding around,” Master Trooper Brandon Bolt said.

Master Trooper Bolt, with the South Carolina Highway Patrol, said statewide traffic numbers from 2017-2021 were staggering.

“We average, on a daily basis, three are people killed every day in South Carolina,” Bolt said.

According to the South Carolina Department of Public Safety, in that time span, there were more than 874,000 reported collisions, nearly 300,000 traffic-related injuries and more than 5,300 deaths.

SCDPS said the statistics for 2022 are preliminary and will not be finalized until 2024. Yet still, officials said the roads in some areas improved.

Preliminary data from SCDPS revealed the number of traffic fatalities for 2022 was less than the previous year, however, in Greenville County, the numbers were trending in the opposite direction.

Greenville County’s death toll caused by motor vehicle accidents has been rising for the past several years. The most reported fatal collisions were seen recently in 2022.

“I believe a lot of this has to do with the growth of the county. The number of residents that we have traveling the roads back and forth today are much greater than they were,” Underhill said.

Many other Upstate counties including Anderson and Spartanburg saw a decrease last year in fatal collisions.

South Carolina Traffic Collisions

2018-2022 (2021-2022 is preliminary data; fatal collision numbers do not include pedestrian deaths)

Statewide summary:

Year Fatal Collisions Injury Collisions Total Collisions Persons Killed
2018 969 38,138 142,406 1,036
2019 927 38,532 141,096 1,006
2020 964 32,869 121,235 1,066
2021 1,110 36,451 147,692 1,196
2022 983 33,449 141,040 1,058
Total 4,953 179,439 693,469 5,362
South Carolina Department of Public Safety

Spartanburg County:

Year Fatal Collisions Injury Collisions Total Collisions Persons Killed
2018 67 2,553 10,631 72
2019 63 2,454 10,404 64
2020 58 2,204 8,718 62
2021 80 2,401 10,217 84
2022 51 2,266 10,644 58
Total 319 11,878 50,614 340
South Carolina Department of Public Safety

Greenville County:

Year Fatal Collisions Injury Collisions Total Collisions Persons Killed
2018 69 3,952 17,255 77
2019 68 3,949 17,111 73
2020 72 3,150 13,740 82
2021 88 3,604 16,345 93
2022 98 3,406 15,682 101
Total 395 18,061 80,133 426
South Carolina Department of Public Safety

Anderson County:

Year Fatal Collisions Injury Collisions Total Collisions Persons Killed
2018 42 1,207 5,428 44
2019 35 1,211 5,094 38
2020 47 1,138 4,704 48
2021 55 1,177 5,924 55
2022 40 1,050 5,232 43
Total 219 5,783 26,382 228
South Carolina Department of Public Safety

Since the start of 2023 there have been at least 68 traffic-related deaths in the state, according to SCDPS.

Chief Deputy Coroner, Mike Ellis, is among those who investigate deadly crashes in Greenville Co.

“I’ve cried with families as much as they’ve cried and even more,” Ellis said. “It’s extremely stressful.”

They are the ones tasked with notifying families.

“This is the only line of work that I’d love to put myself out of the job… that we wouldn’t have to work any type of death what-so-ever, especially a traumatic or tragic death,” Ellis said.

Ellis said the official death count gathered by the Coroner’s Office is even higher in Greenville County than what is reported by the state because of timing. He said there is an allotted number of days SCDPS gives crash-patients to recover in the hospital. If they die after that time frame, it is not longer considered a traffic-related death.

Fatal wrecks are what many responders train for and often times they are crashes that stick with people after one wrong choice is made.

“When we are hired, we know there’s going to be situations that are going to be difficult,” Underhill said.

While some drivers get away with violating the laws ‘just this one time,’ for others, it may be their last.

“You know, at the end of the day as Troopers, we can only do so much,” Bolt said. “It’s up to them at the end of the day to do the right things.” 

Troopers said you can decrease your risk of injury or even death by buckling up, driving sober and obeying other road laws.


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