State’s seat belt usage rate sets record high | News
Nine out of 10 motorists in South Carolina wear their safety belts – the highest recorded usage rate in state history – according to a recent survey by the University of South Carolina.
Officials at the SC Department of Public Safety (SCDPS) credit enforcement and public education efforts with the record 90.5 percent usage rate – the first time the rate has climbed higher than the 90 percent mark. SCDPS commissioned the June survey following the Memorial Day Buckle Up, South Carolina (BUSC) safety belt campaign.
“This record-setting rate will result in more lives being saved on our highways,” said Leroy Smith, Director of SCDPS. “The 90.5 percent usage rate shows just how much the hard work of the state’s law enforcement community and public safety advocates have paid off.”
The new survey was based on traffic counts conducted in 16 counties and focused on drivers and passengers who used shoulder style safety belts in June 2012. South Carolina’s rate surpasses the current national safety belt usage rate of 84 percent.
Raising the safety belt usage rate each year remains a major goal of SCDPS. This year, the state eclipsed the previous record mark of 86 percent set last year. (The rate has been higher than 85 percent the past three years.)
“While SCDPS is pleased with the results of this year’s survey, we recognize there are still too many people who are not complying with the law,” Smith said. “We know from crash statistics that many of these people also are drunk drivers, speeders – or reckless in other ways. We also know wearing a safety belt is the best defense against reckless drivers.”
To gauge the usage of safety belts in South Carolina, SCDPS’ Office of Highway Safety commissioned the observational surveys by USC’s Department of Statistics. The 2012 survey found:
- Women continue to be more likely than men to use safety belts, 93.3 percent to 87.6 percent.
- Rural occupants are less likely to use safety belts than urban occupants, 88.5 percent to 91.4 percent.
- White occupants had a higher rate of use than other motorists, 91.3 percent to 87.8 percent. This gap was closer this year compared to historical trends.
- Car occupants were more likely to wear safety belts than truck occupants, 92 percent to 86 percent.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), regular safety belt use is the single most effective way to protect people and reduce fatalities in motor vehicle crashes. When worn correctly, safety belts have proven to reduce the risk of fatal injury to front-seat passenger car occupants by 45 percent, and by 60 percent in pickup trucks, SUVs, and minivans.
In a motor vehicle crash, an unbelted occupant actually suffers three crashes:
- Vehicle collision: Vehicle slams into another vehicle or fixed object (guard rail, tree, etc.)
- Human collision: Body slams into other occupants and/or interior of vehicle, or is thrown out of the vehicle through one of the windows
- Internal collision: Internal body parts slam against each other and/or the body’s skeletal structure causing internal bleeding