COLUMBIA, SC (WMBF) – The South Carolina Department of Public Safety announced results from a recent USC survey, stating South Carolina motorists set a record-breaking 91.7 percent safety belt usage rate, making 2013 the second consecutive year that the rate of usage was above 90 percent.
The survey was based on traffic counts conducted in 16 counties, and focused on drivers and passengers who used shoulder-style safety belts in June 2013. South Carolina's 91.7 safety belt usage is well above the current national rate of 86 percent.
Last year the rate for SC was 90.5, the first time it rose above 90 percent. Officials at the SCDPS attribute the record usage rate to continuing enforcement and education efforts.
"This record-setting rate will result in more lives being saved on our highways," said Leroy Smither, Director of SCDPS. "The 91.7 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 SCDPS says a major goal of its Target Zero initiative is raising the safety belt usage rate every year. "SCDPS is pleased with the results of this year's survey, but we recognize too many people still are not complying with the law," Smith said. "Crash statistics show 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."
The SCDPS' Office of Highway Safety and Justice Programs commissioned the observational survey by USC's Department of Statistics, and found the following:
- Women continue to be more likely than men to use safety belts, 93.9 percent compared to 89.8 percent. (However, the men's usage rate saw an increase over last year's 87.6 percent usage rate.)
- Rural occupants are less likely to use safety belts than urban occupants, 91 percent compared to 94.2 percent.
- White occupants had a higher rate of use than other motorists, 93.1 percent compared to 87.5 percent.
- Car occupants were more likely to wear safety belts than truck occupants, 92.3 percent compared to 90 percent. (However, the percentage of safety belt usage among truck occupants increased over last year's 86 percent.)
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says the single most effective way to protect people and reduce fatalities in motor vehicle crashes, is regular safety belt use. When seat belts are worn correctly, they have been 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