Traffic collisions kill over 30,000 people in the United States each year (33,808 people died in traffic fatalities in the U.S. in 2009). Traffic collisions kill hundreds of South Carolinians each year.
One of the deadliest activities a person will ever do in his or her lifetime is driving a motor vehicle.
Lance Corporal Tony C. Keller, South Carolina Highway Troop Two, addresses highway safety. His duty is upholding the laws of the state to promote a safe and secure environment for the public and serve citizens in a dedicated, honest, reasonable and professional manner.
Keller announces the release of 2012 preliminary highway trends: S.C. Department of Public Safety reports that a preliminary number of 837 people died on S.C. roadways in 2012, compared to 828 traffic-related deaths in 2011. 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, which saw a 7 percent increase in highway deaths the first nine months of 2012. From 2009-2012, S.C. had a 6.4 percent decrease in highway fatalities.
Top five contributing factors for fatal collisions in 2012: #1 – driving under the influence; #2 – driving too fast for conditions; #3 – Failure to yield right of way; #4 – running off the road; #5 – lying and/or illegally in roadway (pedestrian).
Safety Belts: The number of drivers or occupants with access to seat belts who died unbelted rose approximately 10 percentage points over last year. (2012: 58 percent died unbelted)
Number of vulnerable roadway deaths — motorcyclists, pedestrians, bicyclists and motorbike users — continued to grow as it has in the past several years. (9.3 increase)
In 2012, the worst months for fatalities: January, May, November and December. Saturday was the deadliest day, followed by Sunday. The majority of fatalities are occurring at night, with time slot being 6-9 p.m. Trooper Enforcement trends (2012) approximately 26,000 DUI arrests; issued 501,513 total citations; 409,228 total warnings.
Col. Mike Oliver, commander of S.C.Highway Patrol, said trooper’s primary emphasis in 2013 will be on the leading causes of collisions and deaths: DUI, failure to use safety belt and speed. “We will continue a strong enforcement emphasis on core violations. But motorists can also expect to see more nighttime safety belt enforcement. Our fatality numbers continue to show that the majority of fatal conditions are occurring at night with people not buckled up.”
Vulnerable roadway users — motorcyclists, pedestrians, bicyclists, and other motorbikes — will also be a primary focus.
Lance 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 #1 cause of fatal collisions in S.C. 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.