Last updated: June 04. 2014 8:54AM - 97 Views
Margaret Brackett Contributing Columnist

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May Notes will bring readers up to date with Newberry County and South Carolina safety reports addressing highway trends, emphasis on violations and leading causes of collisions and fatalities with information from Lance Corporal Tony C. Keller, SC Highway Troop Two.

Lance Corporal Tony Kelly’s duty is to promote a safe and secure environment for the public, states the problem is that traffic collisions kill over 30,000 people in the United States each year which includes hundreds of South Carolinians.

Lance Corporal Keller announces the release of 2014 preliminary highway trends: S.C. Department of Public Safety reports that this year’s Memorial Day had the lowest total of traffic deaths since 1984. The lowest total in thirty years! Five were killed on SC highways during May 23-26.

In May 2013, 12 fatalities were recorded. In addition, preliminary numbers show one motorcycle fatality this holiday weekend compared to six in 2013. Vulnerable roadway users (pedestrians, bicycle, moped and motorcycle operators) and deaths resulting from lack of safety belt use were two of the areas showing the most notable statistical increases based on preliminary findings.

However, South Carolina still remains below the national average. This year S.C. has come a long way: as of May 26, 275 people have died on SC highways compared to 286 highway deaths for same period in 2013. Of the 198 motor vehicle occupants who died in 2014, 98 were not wearing seat belts.

Through May 26, 53 pedestrians, 26 motorcyclists, and 3 bicyclists have died on state roads and highways. In 2012, 185 people were killed during drunk driving crashes over Memorial Day weekend. These deaths accounted for 44 percent of all highway fatalities during the time period, compared to an average of 31 percent of the year as a whole.

Seat belt usage is one of the best ways to stay safe on our highways, and one of the best ways to protect you from a drunk driver. That is why this Memorial Day weekend stepped up enforcement with “Click It or Ticket It” Enforcement Campaign. Regardless of the vehicle, seat belts save lives.

In 2012, NHTSA statistics show that 21,667 occupants of passenger cars, trucks, vans and SUVs were killed in motor vehicle crashes nationwide — and 48 percent were NOT wearing seat belts at the time of the fatal crash.

South Carolina launches Summer-Long Crackdown on Speed during the 100 days of summer. Speeding is risky business behind the wheel and today SC Office of Highway Safety is issuing a statewide warning to high-risk drivers May 19 until September 5, 2014: “Slam your brakes on your high speeding habits now. Law enforcement agencies across the state are once again rolling-out a full-scale enforcement mobilization to crackdown on the worst offenders — called the 100 Days of Summer.”

This campaign is a multi-jurisdictional highway safety enforcement strategy designed to reduce high-fatality crash-counts during the potentially deadly summer holiday driving period from Memorial Day through the Fourth of July and Labor Day holidays.

SC Office of Highway Safety says there is another common sense advantage to slowing down this summer, and that is saving money. Your car’s fuel efficiency begins to rapidly decrease at speeds over sixty mph. Slower speed can lower your gas mileage by 5 percent around town and as much as 33-percent at highway speeds. We know it saves lives. Why not do both this summer?

The top five contributing factors for fatal collisions in 2013 were driving under the influence, driving too fast for conditions, failure to yield right of way, running off the road, and failure to use seatbelt.

Corporal Keller accentuates the following safety driving instructions:

• Rain: You should turn on the headlamps when it is raining. Always be mindful of standing water that can cause you to lose traction and control of your vehicle. If your vehicle gets out of control, then turn in the direction of the skid. If you see water covering the roadway, don’t try to cross the road as it may be too deep and your vehicle could stall in the water.

• Fog/Smoke: When fog or smoke is present, turn on headlamps (daytime) and on low beam at night. High beam headlamps should not be used at night in foggy or smoky conditions because the fog can get reflected back to the source, thus making it difficult to see. The white line on right side of the roadway is for use as a guide during foggy conditions and can prevent you from going off the right side of the road.

• Work Zones: Workers building our highways and bridges must be protected while doing their work. When approaching the work zones, slow down to allow for any unforeseen circumstances such as sudden stops in traffic or workers having to enter the roadway. The heavy equipment they use is dangerous to motorists as it frequently enters the road from various points along the work routes.

• Dealing with Aggressive Drivers: If you encounter someone who is driving recklessly or aggressively, slow down to allow him to go around you and keep a safe distance. Never try to “compete” or take a stand against that person; just let him go and stay clear of his vehicle.

• Should You Have a Blowout: Have a good grip on the steering wheel and allow your car to coast to a stop and try to get off the main traveled position of the roadway. Do not brake or speed up to get out of the way of other motorists as this may cause your vehicle to crash.

• Tips on Road Assistance: Move the vehicle to the right side of the road out of the flow of traffic, if possible. Stopping on the left side of a divided highway is extremely dangerous but sometimes unavoidable. Do not leave the vehicle stopped in a traffic lane.

Show clear signals that there is a problem and you need assistance by raising the vehicle hood. This is an internationally recognized sign of distress. In addition, turn on your emergency flashers and display any signs you have to indicate you need help. (Such as shade screens with distress messages.) If you remain with the vehicle, another motorist will likely report your disabled vehicle to the police, and it will easier for them or others to provide assistance.

Be prepared for Problem Situations: Keep items in the vehicle such as flares, flashlights, first aid kit, and mobile phone. Know location of your spare tire, jack and other tools, and be sure they are in working order. Be familiar with your vehicle.

Buckle Up: Strong emphasis on seatbelts, the most effective safety devices in vehicles today. Always wear your seat belt to increase your chance of survival and reduces injuries in a collision.

Impaired Drivers: S.C. has one of the highest rates for alcohol-impaired driving in US. The number one cause of fatal collisions in SC is DUI. Aside from a criminal charge, a DUI arrest can carry a huge financial burden and DUI convictions.

The South Carolina Department of Public Safety sponsors the Highway Patrol. The agency’s mission is to ensure public safety by protecting and serving South Carolina residents and visitors.

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