According to the Detroit Bureau, the Auto Insurance Center (AIC) has released a report claiming that, in general, the states with the least restrictive driving laws concerning teen driving, seat belts, and speeding experience more traffic fatalities each year than states which impose more stringent laws. This direct correlation between lax driving laws and traffic fatalities should be of particular interest to residents of South Carolina as our roads are twice as fatal as the nationwide average. While not all car accidents can be avoided, perhaps studies such as the one discussed below will shed light on ways in which traffic safety within our state can be improved.
Auto Insurance Center Reports that Strict Driving Laws Can Reduce Traffic Fatalities
The Auto Insurance Center’s recent traffic fatalities report looked at various state laws relating to teen driving, seat belts, and speeding. By ranking each state’s laws on a scale ranging from least restrictive to severe the study was able to determine that there is a direct correlation between traffic fatalities and lax driving laws in these three categories. The Detroit Bureau reported on some of the study’s key findings, including those outlined below.
Teen Driving Laws
According to the Auto Insurance Center’s report, the top five states for teen crash fatalities all place either little or mild restrictions on teen driving privileges. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) believes that these states could greatly lower their statistics by implementing stringent rules on graduated licenses. The NHTSA estimates that states that adopt graduated driver licensing programs can reduce traffic fatalities caused by 16 and 17-year-olds drivers by 20 to 50 percent.
South Carolina has already implemented a graduated driver licensing program in order to help reduce teen car accidents within the state. The graduated driver licensing program requires teens to obtain their driver’s license in stages based on age and experience requirements. Detailed information about South Carolina’s graduated driver’s license program is provided on the DMV’s website, but the general age requirements in South Carolina are as follows:
- 15 years old: Eligible for learner’s permit.
- 15 years and 180 days old: Eligible for provisional license.
- 16 years old: Eligible for special restricted license.
- 17 years old: Eligible for regular driver’s license.
Seat Belt Laws
The AIC’s study also shows a correlation between restrain-related crash fatalities and states that impose lax penalties on drivers who fail to buckle up. The study reports that the top 15 states for restrain-related fatalities are the same states that impose the lowest penalties on drivers who don’t buckle up. However, the AIC also notes that there is a “rural factor” at play here. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, people who live in rural areas are 10 percent less likely to use seat belts than those who live in a suburb or a city. The rural factor may weaken the correlation between restraint-related fatalities and a state’s penalty system for failing to wear a seatbelt, but the AIC maintains that the correlation still exists.
In South Carolina, both drivers and passengers are required to wear seatbelts when driving on any public street or highway within the state. While there are a few exceptions to this law, for example, mail carriers and people with a physician’s note, almost everyone is required to buckle up. Failing to follow South Carolina’s safety belt law can result in a fine of up to $25.
Lastly, the Auto Insurance Center’s study reports that there is also a correlation between states that have lenient speeding laws and high rates of speeding-related car accident fatalities. For example, the study notes that South Carolina imposes only mildly restrictive speeding laws and has the third highest rate of speeding-related car crash fatalities out of the 50 states. Fines for speeding in South Carolina vary depending on the situation, but apart from being required to pay a fine, drivers who are caught speeding may also be required to pay surcharges, attend educational courses, and may even have their driver’s license suspended or revoked.
Combined Factors Make Roads in South Carolina Twice as Fatal as Nationwide Average
There are undoubtedly many factors that have an effect on traffic fatality rates within South Carolina and while passing more stringent teen driving laws, safety belt laws, and speeding laws may help the situation, that may not be enough – South Carolina has such a long way to go. According to the State, South Carolina’s roads were twice as deadly in 2015 than roads in the rest of the country. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that nationwide traffic deaths were up 7.7 percent in 2015, however, in South Carolina traffic deaths within the state increased by a whopping 16 percent. This trend is certainly not encouraging.
Why are the roads in South Carolina so dangerous? The State asked this question of various traffic safety officials and their aggregate response blamed a combination of rural roads, more vehicles being registered within the state, cheap gas, and distracted drivers. Officials also noted that the top five reasons for fatalities on South Carolina roadways are:
- Not wearing seat belts,
- Drunk driving,
- Failing to yield to oncoming vehicles, and
- Pedestrians in the road
Need Legal Advice?
Regardless of the cause, car accidents can be devastating. If you or a loved one has been involved in a car accident and believes that the other driver was at fault, you may be legally entitled to compensation for your loss. The Elrod Pope Law Firm’s dedicated car accident attorneys in Rock Hill, SC would be happy to sit down with you to discuss your legal options. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.
Thomas E. Pope is a Personal Injury, Wrongful Death, and Medical Malpractice Attorney who practices in Rock Hill, Lake Wylie, and Lancaster, SC. He graduated from the University of South Carolina School of Law, and has been practicing law for 31 years now. Thomas E. Pope believes in protecting the injured. Learn more about his experience here.