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EDITORIAL: Reducing road deaths 2021 priority
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EDITORIAL: Reducing road deaths 2021 priority

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The new year on the roads has already claimed two lives in Orangeburg County. That's not the beginning we had hoped for after a year that saw traffic deaths increase in the state despite what had been expected to be a decline because of less traffic due to the pandemic.

New statistics from autoinsurance.org show South Carolina ranked first in 2020 for the worst state for traffic-related fatalities, with a 1.78 fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled. It is the third year in a row the organization’s annual study has found “troubling stats for South Carolina drivers.”

Preliminary numbers from the S.C. Department of Public Safety show 1,018 people were killed in crashes in 2020, 12 more than the horrific toll of 1,006 in 2019.

Pedestrian deaths were up to 174 from 165 in 2019. Motorcycle fatalities were down to 106 from 120 and bicycle deaths stood at 14, a reduction of 13 from 27 in 2019.

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And fortunately, deaths were down slightly in Orangeburg County, from 42 in 2019 to 37 in 2020.

As much as any decline of any type, anywhere is welcome, it's still horrific that more than 1,000 people were killed on the state's roads last year.

And already in 2021, there have been 26 deaths, up nine from a year ago.

Seeing traffic deaths take a major decline is high on our list of wishes for the new year. Many things could contribute to making it happen.

A key one is reducing deaths in motor vehicle crashes, which account for the greatest loss of life. Wearing safety belts is the most effective way to save lives in vehicle crashes.

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National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics show:

1. If you buckle up in the front seat of a passenger car, you can reduce your risk of fatal injury by 45% and moderate to critical injury by 50%.

2. If you buckle up in a light truck, you can reduce your risk of fatal injury by 60% and moderate to critical injury by 65%.

Wearing seat belts is the law. It is also the smart and sensible thing to do.

In Orangeburg County and all around South Carolina, a commitment to wearing seat belts every time and all the time while traveling would be a very smart resolution for 2021 -- and one that is not difficult to keep. Your life may depend on it.

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