As of Saturday, 220 people have been killed on South Carolina roadways this year. Three of those fatalities have happened on Aiken County roadways in the last two weeks.
On April 27, two teenagers were ejected during a single-vehicle collision, killing one and critically injuring the other. Less than a week later, two people were killed during a single-car crash in Beech Island, one of whom wasn’t wearing a seat belt.
Of the 220 people killed in the state so far, 98 had access to seat belts but weren’t wearing them.
Indeed, seat belt usage in South Carolina has increased to 90 percent since the state switched its seat belt law from a secondary offense to a primary offense, according to the S.C. Highway Patrol. Authorities are pulling out all the stops to hammer home the point that seat belts save lives, but the message is still falling on some deaf – or defiant – ears.
“With the traffic fatalities we’re having, lack of a seat belt is one of the leading causes of people dying in a car accident,” said Lance Cpl. Judd Jones with the S.C. Highway Patrol.
He said, during a motor vehicle collision, there are actually three crashes taking place.
“If you’re traveling down the highway, and the vehicle is going 55 mph, that means your body inside the vehicle is also going 55 mph,” he said. “So, if the vehicle runs off the road, hits a tree and the vehicle comes to a stop, your body is continuing to travel at 55 mph.”
That’s the first crash.
The second crash is your body running into whatever it hits, whether it is the steering wheel, other people inside the car or something outside such as a tree or the pavement.
“Once you (are ejected) from your vehicle, your chances of survival are slim,” Jones said, adding that you’re four times more likely to be killed if you’re ejected during a car wreck.
The third crash is your internal organs colliding with each other or with your skeletal system.
Another tragic tie that the two recent Aiken County wrecks have is the alleged involvement of alcohol. Alcohol is a suspected factor in one collision, and alcohol containers were found inside the vehicle in the other; however, toxicology on both drivers still is pending.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released statistics in December that indicated South Carolina had dropped from its No. 1 spot in the country for the number of traffic-related fatalities that involved an alcohol-impaired driver in 2010 to No. 7 in 2011. But that ranking is still entirely too high.
Driving under the influence was the leading cause of fatalities on South Carolina roadways in 2012, according to Jones.
“People have to realize impairment starts with the first drink,” Jones said. “A lot of people think you have to be sloppy, falling down drunk” to be unable to drive.
It’s a tired adage: Don’t drink and drive. The solution is equally as simple: If you’ve been drinking, call someone to drive you home. Call a friend, a family member or a taxi service – but call someone.
That will keep the Highway Patrol from having to call your family and tell them you won’t be coming home.