"Buckle Up South Carolina" Campaign begins ahead of Memorial Day - WFXG FOX54 Augusta - Your News One Hour Earlier

"Buckle Up South Carolina" Campaign begins ahead of Memorial Day

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Source: SCDPS Source: SCDPS
Source: SCDPS Source: SCDPS

The South Carolina Department of Public Safety (SCDPS) will focus its annual safety belt enforcement and education campaign on nighttime safety belt use. While daytime safety belt compliance continues to improve, a pocket of the population still fails to buckle up at night, leading to more nighttime highway deaths.  Preliminary statistics for 2012 show nearly 64 percent of motorists killed at night were unbuckled at the time of the crash compared to 49 percent who were unrestrained and killed during daytime crashes.

From May 20 to June 2, SCDPS and local law enforcement agencies will increase enforcement of South Carolina's primary seat belt law as part of the Buckle Up South Carolina (BUSC) safety belt enforcement mobilization. BUSC is a statewide safety belt enforcement and public information campaign coordinated by SCDPS in conjunction with national and regional enforcement efforts.  The goals are an increase in safety belt usage, a decrease in traffic fatalities and serious injuries and a greater awareness about the role safety belts have in keeping motorists safe.

The state's safety belt compliance rate set a record high – 90.5 percent –  last year (The 2013 safety belt usage rate is expected to be released in July.). This record rate has likely contributed significantly to the SCDPS Target Zero effort aimed at, not just reducing, but eliminating traffic fatalities.  As of May 16 this year, there have been 233 highway fatalities compared to 314 on the same date in 2012; 106 of the 171 people with access to safety belts died unrestrained.

"While more people are buckling up during the day, far too many choose to disobey the law at night when the risk of getting into a fatal collision actually rises," said SCDPS Director Leroy Smith [PHOTO]. "The simple act of buckling up could save hundreds of lives each year. We want to bring a focus on this deadly trend especially going into summer when travel on our roads will increase."

Even though the focus of the two-week 2013 BUSC campaign is nighttime enforcement, officers enforce the state's safety belt law year-round -- day and night. However, motorists can expect to see increased patrols during the mobilization period, along with radio and television efforts to educate the public.

The new BUSC TV commercial features two real SC Highway Patrol troopers demonstrating a nighttime traffic stop for a safety belt violation. In the public service announcement, two unbelted motorists drive through a well-lighted area. This allows one trooper to have a clear view and call in the violation to another trooper who makes the traffic stop. Col. Mike Oliver [PHOTO], commander of the SC Highway Patrol, said it is important for the public to understand how his troopers conduct night safety belt enforcement but more importantly why it is necessary.

"Some people tend to have the mindset that officers don't notice safety belt use after dark," Oliver said. "But we enforce the law day and night especially since statistics tell us that there is a persistent gap between daytime and nighttime seat belt usage."

With Richland County recording more traffic fatalities so far this year than any other county, Coroner Gary Watts [PHOTO] sees the proof all too often that people aren't buckling up the way they should after dark.

"We're leading the state in traffic fatalities and a majority of them are related to unrestrained drivers," said Watts, who punctuates his concern with a blunt message, "Click it or die."

Wearing a safety belt helps protect motorists against the three collisions in a crash:

·         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 flies 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

"Officers too often hear the excuse ‘but I'm a safe driver,'" said Phil Riley [PHOTO], Director of the SCDPS Office of Highway Safety and Justice Programs. "But another vehicle can come seemingly out of nowhere and crash into your vehicle. That is why we emphasize the importance of buckling up you and your passengers … every trip, every time – day or night."

The SC Department of Transportation will support the BUSC campaign by allowing its variable message boards to display "Buckle Up. It's The Law." The message will show from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and 7 p.m.-10 p.m. May 20-23 and May 26-June 2 and from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. May 24-25. (Messages will be pre-empted for any real-time traffic or Amber Alert messages.)



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