A recent article in The State mentions two separate accidents along I-20 during the first weekend in May, which claimed the lives of three people. As the article mentions, none of the three who died were wearing seatbelts. What the article doesn’t mention is that a total of 10 people died on South Carolina roads that weekend–and none of them were wearing seatbelts.
According to the South Carolina Department of Public Safety (SCDPS), which keeps records of the numbers and kinds of accidents and deaths that occur on SC roadways, three of the 10 deaths were in a category where seatbelts are “not applicable,” a classification which includes pedestrians, cyclists and those on motorcycles.
However, the other seven people who died were motorists and passengers who were not buckled up at the time of the crash, investigators say. Also according to the most recent SCDPS figures, 271 people have died so far in 2012 on South Carolina roads. Among those, 121 were people who should have been wearing seatbelts. This figure becomes even more startling when you just focus on the number of people, with access to seatbelts in their vehicles, who have died in accidents this year. Out of the total deaths this year, 188 have been people in autos equipped with seatbelts. And, among this group, those without seatbelts account for 64 percent of all deaths.
South Carolina’s seatbelt law has long made it mandatory for every driver and passenger to buckle up (if in a vehicle with access to seatbelts) while on State and public roadways. For a number of years, however, the seatbelt law didn’t have what is called ‘primary enforcement,’ which meant that police officers couldn’t pull over anyone older than 17 just because they were not wearing a seatbelt. Officers could issue seatbelt tickets only if they stopped a vehicle for another reason first. However, SC’s seatbelt policies got tougher in December of 2005, giving officers the ability to use primary enforcement for seatbelt use. The tougher, current version of the state’s seatbelt policy now allows officers to pull over any vehicle if any person in that vehicle seems not buckled up.