Recent wreck brings seatbelt use to light

By Jena Johnson - bio | email

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - It's a growing trend, with deadly consequences. Dakota Nerren's friends said sometimes teens just forget to buckle up. They said teens can get in a hurry, focusing on where they're going and not the road. They said a seatbelt is the furthest thing from their mind.

"Slow down, just because you get something on your mind, don't just be in such a dead set rush to get it done, take time, and put on your seatbelt," said Samantha Kirkland, Dakota's best friend.

Samantha Kirkland lost her best friend, Dakota Nerren. She said she doesn't know why he didn't buckle up, but she knows he's not the only teen that sometimes forgets. "You don't think about it, you got other things on your mind, you're ready to go, you have something on your mind, you're ready to go do it," said Kirkland.

Dakota and Samantha's longtime friend Ryan Westbrook agreed. Ryan and Dakota grew up playing ball together.

"People are young and they think they can do what they want to, I don't think that's what he had going on in his mind, but it's just one of those things you don't always think about," said Ryan Westbrook, Dakota's good friend.

"It's the last thing on their mind, they're worried about where they're going rather than just buckling up and moving on," said Bryan Finch, Center High School Head Baseball coach.

Finch said he remembers Nerren always wearing his seatbelt, but on Sunday afternoon, he didn't.

"You know the peer pressure falls in, a lot of people think well, I'm not being cool because I've got my seatbelt on," said Greg Sanches, Lufkin Departnebt of Public Safety spokesperson.

In the last month there have been two teens die in car wrecks who weren't wearing their seatbelt. Kyle Denman, 17, was ejected from his car on highway 7 in West Angelina County. Cases like these beg the question, "what if?".

"Dakota hadda had his seat belt on it might have made a difference, I don't know that it would have, but it could have and he'll be very much missed," said Steven Crawford, Dakota's T-ball coach and family friend.

"I just really hope that somebody can learn something out of this, start wearing it and start paying attention," said Kirkland.

These friends of Dakota Nerren can't change what happened Sunday evening, but they can learn from this tragedy and remember to buckle up.

This accident is still under investigation, but Trooper Sanches said 7 out of 10 people not wearing their seatbelt, are killed when involved in a collision.