Preliminary reports from the South Carolina Department of Public Safety indicate there were more than 950 deaths on our state’s highways in 2015.
Those numbers show an increase of 15 percent in the number of deaths from 2014 to 2015. That’s 129 more people who were killed. We went from 823 lives lost on our roads in 2014 to 952 in 2015.
The figures are classified as “preliminary” because there are still some cases that are under investigation, plus there are individuals who may have been critically injured in a crash last year that may ultimately die of their injuries this year. Those would be counted in the final 2015 figures. What that means is, if anything, we’ll only see it get higher.
Not only did the number of people who died increase, but the number of fatal collisions did as well, by 17 percent.
And this refrain was the same across the board:
- Motorcycle deaths – 88 in 2014 compared to 132 in 2015
- Pedestrian deaths – 109 killed in 2014 compared to 117 in 2015
- Bicyclist deaths – 14 in 2014 and again 14 in 2015
Officials have so far not provided any ideas for what might account for the increase, though they do cite the usual suspects as being factors. Those include:
- Buzzed driving/ Drunk driving
- Distracted driving
- Inattention or carelessness in parking lots
- Failure to wear a seat belt
- Failure to ensure children are properly buckled
Almost half of those killed in traffic accidents in 2015 (as of Dec. 28) were not wearing their seat belts. This is not to say those individuals are responsible for their deaths. Crashes occur whether people are wearing their seat belts or not. However, based on federal statistics, of the 320 people killed who weren’t wearing seat belts, 160 might have lived had they been wearing one.
It’s important to note that North Carolina law does not recognize the so-called “seat belt defense” in personal injury cases. That is, while it is true that state law requires drivers and passengers to buckle up, it isn’t considered a form of contributory negligence when they don’t. That means the crash was caused by the actions of the motor vehicle operators – not the person’s failure to wear a seat belt. (Some states do allow defendants to raise this issue when trying to assert a reduction of monetary compensation to the victims.) The point is, even if you weren’t wearing a seat belt, you can still collect damages for your injuries.
Still, knowing the heightened risk one takes on South Carolina roads, it is in everyone’s best interest to wear one.
The one silver lining in this is that the early numbers from January 2016 as compared to January 2015 are down. It may be too soon to say whether we’re reversing the trend, but so far, state officials report:
- Total fatal crashes 2016 – 32
- Total traffic deaths 2016 – 32
- Total fatal traffic crashes 2015 – 42
- Total traffic deaths 2015 – 43
Of those 32 deaths reported so far this year, 23 of the individuals had access to seat belts (i.e., as passengers in trucks, cars, vans, etc.), and of those, 15 were not wearing them.
South Carolina recently launched the “Target Zero Traffic Deaths” campaign, which aims to eliminate traffic deaths in the state through a myriad of initiatives that target certain at-risk groups, such as teens, distracted drivers, elderly drivers, vulnerable road users (i.e., bicyclists and pedestrians), drunk drivers and commercial drivers. The campaign asks the poignant question, “How many deaths are acceptable in your family?”
Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.
S.C. 2015 Road Traffic Deaths Warning for All on Road, editorial, Jan. 20, 2016, The Times and Democrat
More Blog Entries:
Bacon v. Universal Insurance Company – Disputing UIM Benefit Denial, Jan. 15, 2016, Spartanburg Accident Lawyer Blog