Claims, cost for vehicle damage on state roadways rising

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Taxpayers are spending more to settle claims for vehicles damaged and wrecked on South Carolina’s crumbling roads.

The State newspaper reports Friday (http://bit.ly/2pu29s4 ) that South Carolina has spent nearly $50 million since 2010 to settle lawsuits and claims for vehicle damage and injuries.

About $7 million of that was spent in just the last 10 months. That’s nearly $1 million more than was paid during the prior fiscal year.

Potholes are the biggest culprit. Drivers cited them in more than 60 percent of 15,200 claims filed against the state Department of Transportation since 2010.

The agency handles claims of less than $1,500. Larger claims or lawsuits are paid by the state Insurance Reserve Fund. Since July 1, the government insurance program has paid 10 claims of more than $100,000 each.

“These figures directly reflect the poor condition of our roads,” state DOT Director Christy Hall told the newspaper.

Business groups are demanding legislators pass a long-term funding solution to fix the roads. The DOT says it needs an additional $1.1 billion yearly over the next 25 years to bring the state’s roadways to good condition.

The Senate approved its road-funding plan this week. It marked the first time over several years of debate that the Senate has broken a filibuster and passed a bill with a gas tax increase to help fund road construction, allowing for the state’s first gas tax hike in 30 years.

The House passed its own version earlier this year. Just six legislative days remain for the House and Senate to work out a compromise.

Sen. Katrina Shealy, R-Lexington, called the rising cost of claims “one more reason” legislators must pass a bill this session.

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