Number of no-seatbelt fatalities take steep rise in Lufkin TxDOT district

Published: Jul. 8, 2021 at 3:16 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 8, 2021 at 6:28 PM CDT
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LUFKIN, Texas (KTRE) - Fatalities that could have possibly been prevented by wearing seatbelts are on the rise in the Lufkin Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) district--at an alarming rate. Seat belts were required by law in Texas back in 1985, but the reminders to drivers and their passengers to wear them remain a necessary message.

“It takes just a few seconds to buckle a seatbelt,” points out TxDOT spokesperson Rhonda Oaks. “And just that one act, choosing to put on that seatbelt, could save your life.”

Yet there are those who fail to do so.

In the Lufkin district, according to TxDOT there was a 38% increase in fatalities due to unbuckled motorists from 2019 to 2020. Last year there were 40 fatal crashes and 55 serious injuries associated with not wearing a seatbelt. And the trend continues upward.

“[Wearing a seatbelt] will reduce your chances of dying in a car crash by 45% if you’re in a vehicle, and by 60% if you’re in a pickup truck,” said Oaks.

In Texas, drivers and passengers not wearing a seatbelt can face fines and fees up to $200. If a child isn’t secured, the driver faces fines up to $250..

Becky Tarver, sales professional for Tipton Ford, points out all the safety features on cars to encourage drivers to buckle up.

“There it goes. It’s dinging now to indicate that you do not have your seatbelt on. And it even flashes red for you,” said Tarver while demonstrating the all-too familiar tone drivers receive when they fail to buckle up.

Some non-users complain of the seatbelt strap being too uncomfortable. Now newer vehicles have added comfort features to encourage seatbelt use.

“You put your seatbelt on. If it’s too high, there’s a button right here. You push and it pulls it right down,” Tarver demonstrated.

The best reminder to wear a seatbelt is when it saves a life.

“My daughter-in-law and youngest granddaughter, they were involved in a crash,” shared Oaks. “Totaled their car. They rolled three times. They both went to the hospital. Across their bodies were the perfect imprint of a seatbelt doing what they were supposed to do.”

The mark of survival.

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