Use of seat belts rising across state

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AIKEN --- Over the July 4 weekend, Katherine Hanson was driving home after a relaxing day at the lake, strapped into her stepfather's 5.0 Ford Mustang.

A storm had just swept through the area, and the connector road in Graniteville near Midland Valley High School was slick. As the South Aiken High School student approached a sharp curve in the road, the back tires slipped, causing the car to spin into the woods.

"It happened really fast," the 16-year-old said. "I saw the trees coming, and I saw a really big pine tree, and I was hoping it wouldn't hit the driver's side seat."

The car came to rest in a grove of trees, its front end obliterated. Because of the wet road, the South Carolina Highway Patrol issued her a citation for driving too fast for conditions -- 32 mph in a 35 mph zone. But because she was wearing a seat belt, she walked away from the accident with only minor injuries.

According to a survey released last monthÂby the South Carolina Department of Public Safety, 79 percent of motorists in the Palmetto State, the most ever, are buckling up.

State officials speculate that the increase is partly the result of a seat belt law that went into effect in December 2005.

It allows police officers to stop motorists for not wearing a seat belt.

They also credit the efforts of law enforcement to educate the public on seat belt use.

"I'm sure they're aware it's their best defense," said Lance Cpl. Scot Edgeworth, of the South Carolina Highway Patrol.

Though the increase in seat belt use is good news, troopers are always trying to get more drivers to buckle up.

Lance Cpl. Edgeworth, whose mother was not wearing a seat belt when she died in a car accident in 1994, is adamant about seat belt use.

"We're always glad to see more people wearing seat belts," he said. "Our number one goal is to save lives."

Growing up around first responders -- her dad was a paramedic for 13 years -- Katherine said she has always known that seat belts save lives, but her car accident reinforced her belief.

"It's just much different when you experience it," she said. "I never expected something like this to happen to me."

In the summer of 2005, before the law went into effect, about 64 percent of drivers were wearing seat belts. Of the 816 people who died in traffic accidents that year and had access to a seat belt, 560 were not restrained.

In 2006, after a year of aggressive enforcement, that number decreased by 16.6 percent.

According to Sgt. Jake Mahoney, of Aiken Public Safety, the department has issued 1,074 citations for seat belt violations so far this year.

Although seat belt use in the Palmetto State is increasing, the usage rate still lags behind the national average of 82 percent.

In Aiken County this year, 19 people have died in traffic accidents.

Of the 15 who had access to seat belts, 12 were not restrained.

Reach Michelle Guffey at (803) 648-1395, ext. 110, or michelle.guffey@augustachronicle.com.

BY THE NUMBERS


2005 -- 927 fatalities; 816 had access to a seat belt; 560 were not restrained.


2006 -- 1,029 fatalities; 769 had access to a seat belt; 467 were not restrained.


2007 -- 1,071 total fatalities; 808 had access to a seat belt; 501 were not restrained.


2008-to-date -- 542 total fatalities; 402 had access to a seat belt; 263 were not restrained.

Source: South Carolina Department of Public Safety records and survey results

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i.b.e.w..electric
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i.b.e.w..electric 08/02/08 - 05:01 am
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32 in a 35 is to fast for

32 in a 35 is to fast for conditions? is there a special speed limit we need to do after it rains,ive never heard of a mustang breaking loose at 35 mph no matter how wet it was.i think it was just good ol driver inexperence, thank god shes ok.i just cant believe the state patrol wrote her up for driving to fast for conditions,lol

patriciathomas
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patriciathomas 08/02/08 - 06:45 am
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To fast for conditions has

To fast for conditions has nothing to do with the maximum speed limit. If the road is covered with water, ice, or oil then the ideal conditions no longer exist. This seems to be a surprise to a lot of local drivers since wrecks increase by a large factor whenever road conditions deteriorate. This article doesn't make the major point shown by the stats. While more people are wearing seat belts, more wrecks are taking place and more people wearing seat belts die each year. The number of unrestrained deaths are also going up, but the percentage of seat belt deaths remains about 40%. Safe, attentive driving is still the best way to make it home. Don't wreck.

HYPOCRITES 08
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HYPOCRITES 08 08/02/08 - 07:14 am
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PT, so far you are batting

PT, so far you are batting 1000, although I believe you can forget the don't wreck part.

stumpjumper
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stumpjumper 08/02/08 - 02:12 pm
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Too bad it wasn't a lawyer or

Too bad it wasn't a lawyer or union worker................

carolinagirl1970
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carolinagirl1970 08/02/08 - 02:29 pm
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Pt thinks she knows

Pt thinks she knows everything.

patriciathomas
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patriciathomas 08/02/08 - 03:00 pm
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carolinagirl, you may just be

carolinagirl, you may just be drawing a relative conclusion.

The Knave
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The Knave 08/02/08 - 03:14 pm
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RE: "Pt thinks she knows

RE: "Pt thinks she knows everything." Stop the presses! This is not accurate. It should read: "Pt KNOWS she knows everything." And, you can add, "piously convicted, marginally informed" to her dossier.------ “I have said it thrice: What I tell you three times is true.” (Lewis Carroll's poem “The Hunting of the Snark”) ---- And, how in the heck can anyone, after the fact, know that the subject driver was going exactly 32 MPH, not 31, not 33, but 32? Was there a recording device on the vehicle that reported this? This defies logic. But, hey, given the state of the average American's intellectual capabilities, the ability to reason and apply logic is a rarely found attribute.

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