Kiwanis gets crash course in highway safety

Cpl. Sonny Collins of the South Carolina Highway Patrol.
Photo by Samantha Lyles

By Samantha Lyles, Staff Writer, slyles@newsandpress.net

Darlington Kiwanis received a crash course in highway safety from Cpl. Sonny Collins of the South Carolina Highway Patrol at their February 2 meeting.

Collins said that as of that day, 71 people had died on South Carolina roads in 2017, which was exactly the number of fatalities at the same point last year.

“We’ve got some work to do. Last year, we finished with just under 1,000 deaths, which was a little bit of a spike over the past couple of years,” Collins said. He noted that in Darlington, there have been no traffic deaths this year. By this time in 2016, there was one traffic death in the city.

Collins said that the same issues cause traffic deaths all over the state and nation. He said that the number one way to reduce these numbers is to make sure all drivers and passengers are wearing their seat belts properly. Collins said that 93 percent of state drivers wear their safety belts, but about half of those killed in crashes are not wearing their seatbelt.

He explained that $25 seatbelt fines are written to drivers or to passengers traveling unbelted, unless the passenger is a minor without a license, in which case the driver is written up for failing to secure their passengers.

“We write more seatbelt tickets than anything else. More than speeding, failure to yield, DUI or anything. Seatbelt is still king when it comes to enforcement,” said Collins.

Cpl. Collins touched on a number of other traffic safety topics:

• Texting and driving is illegal, incurring a $25 fine. If troopers see drivers looking at their phones for longer than about five seconds – the average time it takes to dial a number and make a call – they will likely stop them and issue a texting and driving ticket. Collins noted that in just five seconds of inattention while driving at 55 MPH, a vehicle can travel the length of a football field.

• Speeding enforcement is left to the officer’s discretion based on posted speed limits, road location, and whether there is a work zone or school nearby. Collins said that troopers will normally decide to write either a ticket or a warning if a driver’s infraction is more or less than ten miles per hour above the posted speed limit.

• Passing a stopped school bus is only permitted when traveling on the opposite side of a four-lane road. Collins cautioned drivers to be very careful when approaching a school bus even in that permitted scenario because other drivers may be unsure of the law and could stop suddenly. He noted that this infraction is very costly, bringing a $1,200 fine and the loss of six points from your driver’s license.

• Driving while impaired continues to be a major danger on state roads, and Collins said that DUI offenses occur around the clock, seven days a week. He urged people to call 911 or *HP to report anyone they spot driving erratically – even if it’s 11 a.m. on a Tuesday – because that driver might be impaired by drugs or alcohol. He noted that in recent tests, an average person can register .08 on a breath test (the legal threshold for impairment) after only one and a half beers.

Author: Duane Childers

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