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March 2019 Traffic Safety Newsletter

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Pedestrian Deaths on the Rise

Pedestrian deaths are on the rise in South Carolina. As of March 10, 2019, 28 pedestrians have died in the Palmetto State, compared to 24 during the same time frame in 2018.


Several factors are responsible for the increase and while these factors focus on the actions of pedestrians, it is important to remember that drivers also play a major role in protecting those traveling on foot. When you get behind the wheel, you should never be under the influence of alcohol, drugs or distraction and should always assume that pedestrians can appear at any moment. It is imperative to keep your eyes and mind on the road and be extra vigilant.


Pedestrian factors:


Impaired Walking

In an effort to avoid getting behind the wheel intoxicated and emboldened by the buzz of alcohol, many are taking the streets by foot after a night of drinking.


Some believe that since they aren’t drunk driving, it’s o.k. to be drunk walking. Impaired walking can be just as dangerous as drunk driving and can result in tragic consequences. A third of pedestrians killed in crashes in 2016 were over the legal limit, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That number comes to 2,000 people, which is 300 more than in 2014.


While checkpoints and ride services like Uber and Lyft have helped prevent motorists from getting behind the wheel intoxicated, nationally there hasn’t been a large focus on pedestrian safety despite the fact that the deaths keep mounting.


Distracted Walking

Walking while distracted – most commonly while using a cell phone – is just as dangerous as driving while operating the device. Without your full attention on where you are walking, your ability to make yourself seen decreases. Distraction causes pedestrians to sway into the road, cross streets at inappropriate times and make poor decisions, which can be fatal.


Additionally, wearing headphones can lessen your ability to hear oncoming traffic.



Non-Pedestrian Friendly Infrastructure:

As urban areas expand, it’s become increasingly difficult for traffic safety infrastructure to keep up with rapid growth occurring across the Carolinas. This results in many communities having a shortage of convenient crosswalks and sidewalks. One solution to combat the problem involves not only adding more crosswalks to prevent jaywalking, but to give them flashing light features for pedestrians to alert motorists at night.


A report conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety outlines efforts to make crossing zones more visible, poorly lit areas brighter and public transportation more accessible as a start to ending this rising issue. These are part of a broader initiative known as “road diets,” in which the number of travel lanes for vehicle traffic is reduced, which reduces the number of lanes for pedestrians to cross and could in turn lower vehicle speeds as well.


Ignition-Interlock Bill Proposed in South Carolina

The South Carolina Senate has just passed a bill aimed at curbing drunk driving and we are hoping the House will follow suit.


Senate Bill 18 requires DUI offenders to install an ignition interlock device on their vehicles. Currently, South Carolina laws only require ignition-interlock devices for repeat offenders and for first-time offenders who are convicted of driving with a blood-alcohol concentration of at least 0.15 percent-nearly twice the legal limit.


An ignition-interlock device is installed in a vehicle and drivers must blow into them before the car’s engine will start.


The Senate passed S. 18 with only one no vote and it will now go to the House Judiciary Committee for consideration.


It already has the support of Governor McMaster – a strong start.


“We need to be strong. We need to stand tall,” McMaster said. “This is a good bill and we need it in South Carolina.”


Nearly a third of the annual 1,000-plus deaths on S.C. roads are caused by drunk driving. According to 2016 data, only Montana drivers faced a greater risk of dying in a drunk-driving accident than S.C. drivers.


“We strongly urge lawmakers to pass this important life-saving legislation because ignition interlocks prevent motorists from making the dangerous mistake of getting behind the wheel impaired again,” said Dave Parsons, President and CEO of AAA Carolinas. “South Carolina is one of the nation’s worst states for drunk driving and this legislation is about changing behavior and ultimately saving lives.”


Motorists who get pulled over for drunk driving have likely driven under the influence many times prior. The average drunk driver has driven drunk 80 times before a first arrest – which means they will probably do it again after being caught, without the intervention of ignition interlock.


If this bill passes, South Carolina will become the 33rd state with an ignition-interlock law for all first time offenders.


Tracy’s Story: A Mother’s Message to End Distracted Driving

At 3:42 p.m., 18-year-old Sarah Edwards received a text message and at 3:42 p.m., Sarah’s vehicle was underneath a log truck after swerving into its lane and hitting it head on.


Looking down to read the message, Sarah had veered across the center line on Chandler Road in Chocowinity, North Carolina, where she then collided with an oncoming logging truck and was killed instantly.


“My daughter is gone because of a stupid mistake, She looked at that message. I can’t speak to my child anymore. I don’t get to hear her voice,” said her mother Tracy O’Carroll.


Finding purpose in her pain, O’Carroll now shares her daughter’s story to parents and teens at high schools and community events in the hopes of increasing awareness of the dangers of distracted driving. Her goal is to change behavior and save lives.

A daily reminder of that tragic day, Sarah’s mangled car sits on display at O’Carroll’s home. She’s even travelled across the state with the crushed vehicle to show the devastating result of her daughter’s split-second to glance into her phone. However, O’Carroll believes the most impactful visual she shares is the reconstruction video of Sarah’s crash, made by the North Carolina State Highway Patrol. Seeing how quickly circumstances changed for Sarah after getting that text is what O’Carroll says affects people the most.


“When I tell Sarah’s story, it makes a big impact. But using the video has an even bigger impact on parents and teens,” said O’Carroll.


O’Carroll knows the pain of losing her daughter eight years ago will never go away, but she chooses to tell her painful story over and over to encourage other parents to join her in the fight to end distracted driving.


“I want parents to stay on their teens and for parents to set an example. Put that cell phone away,” O’Carroll pleaded. “Losing anyone is hard, but when you lose a child, I can tell you firsthand, there is a hole in my heart that cannot be replaced. I will keep her memory alive and continue to do what I do to save a life.”


Currently there is a bill being debated in the NC legislature that would ban the use of hand-held communication devices while driving. As a distracted driving advocate, O’Carroll proudly supports the proposed legislation and hopes North Carolina will adopt a hands-free driving law.



Parnell’s Driver Training

This month, we are highlighting AAA Approved Parnell’s Driver Training, which is an early intervention school to help teens and adults adopt safer driving skills for various situations and be aware of the potential hazards they will face on the road.


Parnell’s Driver Training serves the Pee Dee South Carolina area, owned and operated by Eugene Parnell Jr, a resident of Florence, SC. Eugene, a retired Public Safety State Transport Police Officer, has 25 years of experience and leadership in the transportation business.


For 13 years, Parnell’s Driver Training School has been a successful training program dedicated to helping prevent traffic violations, collisions and fatalities. Parnell’s Driver Training School offers the following classes:


  • Alive at 25 – A course offered to drivers ages 15-25 years that is designed to help prevent traffic violations and collisions. The focus is to help young drivers adopt safer driving habits.
  • Motor Carrier Compliance for Trucks and Buses – The course provides preventative services and assists with scheduled compliance review audits through hands on conduction of roadside inspections and defensive driving skills to help avoid accidents, speeding, seatbelt violations and cell phone use behind the wheel.
  • State Law Required Driver Training – South Carolina regulated 8 hours of classroom instruction and 6 hours of behind the wheel training for 15-16 year olds.
  • Behind the Wheel Driver Training – Students 17 and older can take this course to prepare for the state’s driver test.
  • Third Party Testing – this class is offered to those who never acquired a SC drivers license. State law requires that those who have never had a license will need to hold a learner’s permit for 180 days before proceeding to the license process.
  • Defensive Driving – 8 hour and 4 hour training available to individuals or companies for insurance discounts, 4 point reductions, general safety and driver’s license testing.


To enroll in a course, click here.


Hands-Free NC Legislation Makes Advancements

AAA Carolinas supports proposed legislation in North Carolina that would make it illegal to use hand-held communication devices, such as cell phones, behind the wheel while driving.


Rep.Kevin Corbin (R- Macon) filed HB 144, titled “Hands Free NC,” in the House today, in response to mounting traffic fatalities caused by distracted driving. Reps. John Torbett (R-Gaston), Jon Hardister (R-Guilford) and Garland Pierce (D-Scotland) are also sponsoring the bill.


Tiffany Wright, AAA Carolinas Foundation for Traffic Safety president, spoke alongside public officials and victim’s families at a rally for the bill in Raleigh, earlier this month.


Hands Free NC was filed in February and was approved by the Transportation Committee on March 12. The bill now heads to the Insurance Committee for a reading.


The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has conducted research that revealed distracted driving, especially cell phone use, can be just as dangerous, or even worse than drunk driving.


According to NCDOT, in 2018 there were 123 fatalities coded as a result of distracted driving. However, AAA Carolinas believes the numbers are higher because the behavior is difficult to prove and motorists won’t readily admit to doing it. Last year, there were also 102 rear end fatal crashes and 733 lane departure fatalities. Rear end and lane departure collisions are a common result from distracted driving.


Since texting while driving is difficult to prove, the Hands Free NC bill will give law enforcement the ability to stop drivers simply for holding their phone, whereas in the past they would have to have a secondary reason like speeding or not wearing a seat belt.


The bill carries a $100 fine for the first offense, with higher fines and points on the driver’s license that could also increase insurance rates for subsequent violations.


Last year Georgia became the 16th state to adopt hands-free legislation and since the law went into effect July 1, has already seen positive impact on its roads. Of the 15 other states with similar phone bans, 13 saw at least a 16 percent decrease in fatalities since their laws went into effect.


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