NEWBERRY COUNTY — In the state of South Carolina it is required that every driver and occupant in a motor vehicle, when it is being operated on public streets and highways, must wear a fastened seat belt.
Despite this, over 50,000 seat belt violation citations have been given out by the South Carolina Highway Patrol this year, according to Lance Corporal Justin Sutherland. In Newberry County, over 700 citations have been given. When it comes to wreck fatalities, there have been over 352 deaths where the victim had access to a seat belt, and about half of them were not wearing one.
In Newberry County, of the six wreck fatalities, four had access to a seat belt and there was no evidence they were wearing one.
“When we do an autopsy, generally if someone is wearing their seat belt there will be markings or bruising from where the seat belt stopped them, and kept them in the vehicle. That is what the seat belt is supposed to do,” said Newberry County Coroner Laura Kneece. “So the passenger or driver will basically have that bruising seat belt across the shoulder, down the chest and usually around the abdomen area. None of them (Newberry County wreck fatalities) had that indication.”
According to Kneece, with the wrecks we’ve seen thus far, the victims were ejected from the vehicle.
“Which in turn would lead me, Highway Patrol, investigating agencies, to the fruition that the victims were not wearing their seat belt,” she said. “The seat belt’s purpose is to keep you in the vehicle and keep you restrained, if you are ejected, you are not wearing your seat belt.”
This has also been the trend during Kneece’s tenure as coroner, she said whether the victim was a child or an adult, they were not restrained properly in the vehicle.
When it comes to why people are not wearing seat belts, Kneece has a few ideas. She believes some people think since nothing has happened to them they don’t need it, or they think a seat belt is too restrictive or may mess up their clothes. She has even heard some people say they are going right up the road and they don’t need it, or it is too much of a hassle.
“The percentage of seat belts saving lives outweighs not wearing one,” Kneece said.
Kneece believes the best way to get people to start wearing seat belts is to educate them and express the importance of wearing a seat belt, along with other dangerous driving habits like texting while driving and not paying attention.
“When I do presentations at high schools and middle schools, I have a power point presentation that shows these vehicle accidents, and I explain how the accident occurred, what happened to the victim (they do not see pictures) and this is what happens if you don’t wear a seat belt, or this is what happens when you drink and drive or text and drive,” she said.
In South Carolina you can receive a $25 citation for not wearing your seat belt, which is better than the price you could pay if you’re in an accident and aren’t wearing one.
Reach Andrew Wigger at 803-276-0625 ext. 1867 or on Twitter @TheNBOnews.