As the focus remains on major disasters and the threat to life from hurricanes, the daily reality of loss of life greater than in storms continues on the highways.
Nowhere is the toll higher than in South Carolina. While the headlines from a weekend ago were on recovery and cleanup from Hurricane Irma here and elsewhere, seven more people died on this state’s roads.
As of Sept. 10, 673 people have been killed on South Carolina highways. Thankfully, that is down from the 723 highway deaths during the same period in 2016. But reality is that is still nearly two people a day dying in vehicle crashes, or accidents involving motorcycles, bicycles and pedestrians.
• 466 motor vehicle occupants have died in 2017.
• 92 pedestrians have died compared to 101 in 2016.
• 82 motorcyclists have died compared to 108 in 2016.
• 13 bicyclists have died compared to 19 in 2016.
Some of these fatalities make headlines. Many do not – and certainly not beyond the communities in which these people lived. It is as if we accept highway deaths as long as they do not involve someone we know or love.
And we do not take enough precaution – as would be done when a big storm threatens – to ensure safety.
Of the 466 killed in vehicle crashes so far in 2017, 223 were not wearing seat belts. Considering statistics showing that being belted greatly enhances the odds of surviving a crash, about half of those killed could be alive today. Many others not wearing seat belts could have avoided serious injury by doing so.
While wearing safety belts is the law, there remain adults who consider the mandate an intrusion on personal freedom. Their argument holds no water, but at very minimum all adults should be responsible in ensuring young people’s lives are protected according to law and logic.
Car crashes are the leading cause of death among children ages 1 to 13. It does not have to be that way.
And National Child Passenger Safety Week – which ends Sept. 22 -- is the perfect time to take action.
AAA Carolinas advises that parents and guardians should adhere to the following South Carolina laws regarding child passenger safety:
• Children under the age of 2 or weighing less than 20 pounds must be in a rear-facing child safety seat.
• Children of age 2 or weighing between 20 and 40 pounds must be in a forward-facing child safety seat.
• Children over age 4 and weighing 40 to 80 pounds must be in a belt-positioning booster seat. This booster seat must be used with both lap and shoulder belts.
• Any child of at least 8 years of age or 57 inches tall is permitted to use an adult safety belt if the belt fits across the child’s thighs and hips, the shoulder belt crosses the center of the child’s chest and the child is able to sit with his or her back straight against the vehicle seat back cushion with knees bent over the seat edge.
Parents and guardians are also encouraged to review the following five common car seat mistakes to try to prevent them going forward:
• Moving your child out of a booster seat too soon.
• Not installing the car seat tightly enough.
• Harness straps are too loose.
• Retainer clip is too low.
• Turning your child forward-facing too soon.
AAA President Dave Parsons is right: “It is our responsibility as parents and guardians to ensure the safety of our children in vehicles.”
Wear seat belts to ensure safety and set the right example. Be sure children are buckled up. The lives you save may be yours and those of people you love.