Trooper addresses highway safety, seat belt use

Margaret Brackett - Contributing Columnist

The guest for this week’s Notes is Corp. Bill Rhyne of the S.C. Highway Patrol. Rhyne is supervisor of Upper South Carolina community and public relations. His duty is upholding the laws to promote a safe and secure environment for the public. He is presenting an annual report on South Carolina driving and recommendations for highway safety.

More than 1,000 people die on our state’s roadways each year. What you may not know are the common mistakes people make behind the wheel and the “insider tips” for preventing these fatal mistakes.

The good news about vehicle collisions is that you have control over most of the factors that could cause you to die behind the wheel. Most people blame the problems on our roadways or “the other guy.”

What they may not know is that the majorities of the collisions we investigate are due to driver error and often involve only one vehicle. It may surprise you to know that the single greatest danger you face on the roadway is you.

Fatal collisions sadly are replays of the same tragic scene again and again. The driver veers off the road due to speed, fatigue, inattention or impairment from drugs or alcohol. Overcorrection happens if you run off the roadway. Remember the off/off rule — take your foot off the accelerator and keep it off the brake.

South Carolina has one of the highest rates for alcohol-impaired driving in United States. The number one cause of fatal collisions in South Carolina is DUI.

Note: Choosing to not wear a seat belt is the second leading cause of fatal collisions. The third is speeding and distracted driving.

Rhyne suggests that if drivers happen to notice suspicious drivers, they can dial “HP” and or “47.” This call can help alert patrolmen so they can stop DUI drivers. Reporting drivers can help by providing the tag number, description of the vehicle, the location and possibly a description of the driver.

Signs of a possible impaired driver include the vehicle weaving in the road, the vehicle driving left of center, the driver not maintaining speed, the vehicle leaving the road, making wide turns into other lanes at intersections and no signals before attempting to turn.

The consequences of DUI are not only emotional, but financial as well. With DUI convictions, the insurance doubles over the next three years, there are court and attorney fees, an alcohol and drug safety program, bonds, license reinstatement fee, and vehicle towing after the arrest.

Other potential DUI costs include loss of employment due to the charge itself or not having a license to get to work, time off from work fighting the charges, increases in life insurance premiums and/or losing a professional license.

Seat belts are strongly emphasized as the most effective safety devices in vehicles today.

Always wear your seat belt because it will increase your chances for survival in a collision and help reduce injuries if worn properly. Don’t make safety a chance, always keep safety your first choice.

Safety belts and child safety work five different ways when worn correctly.

1. Prevents ejection: Persons who are ejected are four times greater to die from the collision. Passengers that stay in the vehicle allow the energy and forces to be absorbed by the vehicle.

2. Shifts crash forces to the strongest point of the body: The strongest points are the hips, shoulders, and chest when the seat belt is on correctly. Seat belts should come across the shoulder, travel across the center of the chest and cross over the hips. As for the child seats, the belts should be flat across the surface of the body. Seat belts should never be twisted. This allows the seat belt to cut like a saw across the surface when the body moves forward.

3. Spreads forces over a wide area of the body.

4. Allows the body to ride the crash down slowly.

5. Protects the head and spinal cord.

For not wearing seat belts, many of our deaths come from people being ejected. Dying in car crash is largely preventable. If we could get everyone to use seat belts, we would see our fatalities drop at least another one third. Every hour, at least one person dies in this country because he or she did not buckle up.

Margaret Brackett

Contributing Columnist

Margaret Brackett is from Newberry. Her columns appear weekly in The Newberry Observer.

Margaret Brackett is from Newberry. Her columns appear weekly in The Newberry Observer.