“To have a statistic like 90 percent is just unthinkable really,” says Aiken County Coroner Tim Carlton.
90 percent of Aiken County traffic deaths this year have one factor in common: You might think it's excessive speed or driving in bad weather. You'd be wrong. It's as simple as whether or not the deceased was wearing a seat belt.
“Certainly the tragedy for us is if you don't do everything you can to save your own life, there's not much we can do to help you,” Carlton says.
Initially we sat down with Carlton just talk about why fatalities are up in Aiken County, while they're down across the state. He looked at the deaths this year and was shocked to do the math.
“I don't think there's any excuse for not wearing a seat belt, it takes a few seconds,” he says.
It's something a lot of people take for granted – so we hit to the streets to ask people about whether they wear their seatbelts. And we got some honest answers:
“Sometimes I forget,” Margaret Abney says.
Others were almost caught in the act.
“I start driving then I remember to put it on,” says Clark Rivers. “Now that you said it I am.”
But for others, wearing that seatbelt is all in the family:
“Ever since I was little my mom would always look back and make sure I put my seatbelt on,” Natalie Gorensek says.
Her mother has a clear reason why.
“It'll save my life,” mother Annmarie says.
“It's second nature, it doesn't feel right if I'm not wearing my seatbelt in the car,” father Max adds.
But the Gorenseks aren't self-righteous about seatbelts: “It's very easy to hop in your car if you're going up the street not to put it on,” Annmarie admits.
That's an important point: People may think about more about seatbelts if they're speeding on the interstate, but all of Aiken's deadly crashes were on smaller local highways. Either way clicking that belt is a lesson that it's important to drive hard at home.
“I have a 16-year-old and I certainly will reiterate to him, he needs to wear seatbelts,” Carlton says.
Statewide only 60 percent of traffic fatalities occurred with unrestrained drivers.