COLUMBIA — The S.C. Departments of Education, Public Safety, and Transportation kicked off a joint effort to bring school and community awareness to the importance of student driving safety.
“My number one priority is to ensure that students are in a safe learning environment in which they can be successful. Children are precious cargo, whether they are on a school bus or in their own vehicles” said Molly Spearman, state superintendent of education. “The partnership between these state agencies will help encourage students, parents, and school staff to use safe driving habits so that they can arrive in the classroom safe and ready to learn.”
This cross agency collaborative effort is focused on curtailing negative driving habits such as texting and driving and not buckling up through the use of customized signage around South Carolina high school campuses.
Through the utilization of federal funding, the South Carolina Department of Public Safety (SCDPS) has designed school specific signs tailored to the school’s colors and mascots that will serve as daily reminders to “DRIVE NOW. TEXT LATER.” And “BUCKLE UP.”
Spring Valley High School in Richland School District Two was the first high school in the state to have these signs installed, courtesy of SCDOT maintenance crews, around their campus. The goal of the initiative is to install signage at every school in the state that requests them during the upcoming school year.
“Our young drivers across the state continue to be over-represented in traffic fatalities. The signs being placed at high schools contain life-saving messages and will serve as a daily reminder to encourage teenagers to always buckle up and never text while driving,” said SCDPS Director Leroy Smith.
Current data shows that 156 youth, ages 15-18, have died on South Carolina roadways in the last three years. Over fifty percent of those deaths occurring in vehicles equipped with restraint devices were unrestrained at the time of collision. A 2015 Teen Driving Study conducted by AAA showed that distracted driving accounted for 58 percent of collisions involving teen drivers. The agencies involved in this initiative firmly believe that one life lost on South Carolina roadways is one too many.
“The beginning of a new school year means a renewal of additional safety challenges on our highways. Motorists must be aware of increased traffic in school zones, school bus stops and increased pedestrian traffic in school zones. Students who drive themselves to school can and should take part in this campaign by buckling up and not texting while driving for their safety and the safety of others,” said Christy Hall, secretary of transportation.
Target Zero, a goal of zero traffic fatalities in South Carolina was adopted by SCDOT and SCDPS in 2012. Working together, the agencies have seen South Carolina safety belt usage rise to a historical high of 93.9 percent, well above the national average.