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Some accidents are not survivable even with the victim being buckled up with a safety belt. But a person’s chances of living through a crash are much better with than without use of a seat belt.

Among the 11 people killed on South Carolina highways this past weekend, the S.C. Department of Public Safety reports that in motor-vehicle crashes, two were wearing safety belts, four were not and one is undetermined. The weekend toll brought to 367 the number of people killed on the state’s roads so far this year. That’s down from 400 in 2017.

Seat belts could have further reduced the carnage. Of the 264 motor-vehicle occupants killed in 2018, 133 were not wearing seat belts.

Based on data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that shows use of front-seat seat belts reduces the risk of fatal injury by 45 percent, as many as 60 of the 133 could be alive today had they been buckled up.

South Carolina’s highway death toll has been on the rise in recent weeks and the busiest travel time of year is approaching. Even with higher gas prices, more people are expected on the road this year for Memorial Day weekend.

SCDPS began its annual Buckle, Up SC, enforcement mobilization on May 21. The enforcement period will run through June 3, with special emphasis being placed on nighttime checks because statistics show the rate of safety belt usage drops during the hours between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.

On this holiday travel weekend and at all times, don’t make the mistake of believing that use of safety belts is only something necessary for “short trips.” Three out of four fatal crashes occur within 25 miles of the crash victims’ home. And most crashes causing death or injury occur at speeds below 40 mph.

Some other key information from the NHTSA about seat belts:

• Every hour, at least one person dies in this country because he or she didn’t buckle up. Failure to use a seat belt contributes to more fatalities than any other single traffic safety-related behavior.

• Child safety seats, used correctly in passenger cars, reduce the risk of death by 71 percent for infants and by 54 percent for toddlers. In light trucks, the corresponding reductions are 58 percent and 59 percent, respectively.

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• Even if your car has airbags, always wear a safety belt. Airbags are supplemental restraint systems that work with safety belts, not in place of them.

• Fear of entrapment during vehicle fire or submersion is not a valid reason for not wearing seat belts. Only half of 1 percent of all crashes ends in fire or submersion. Most crash fatalities result from the force of impact or from being thrown from the vehicle, not from being trapped. Ejected occupants are four times as likely to be killed as those who remain inside the vehicle.

SCDPS Director Leroy Smith says, “Safety belts are the single most effective safety device for preventing fatalities and injuries in a motor vehicle collision.”

Wear them at all times. They’re your best insurance.

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