Derick Seckinger’s words were short and succinct.
His seat belt saved his life.
The Effingham County Sheriff’s deputy was badly injured in an accident more than two and a half years ago that claimed the life of a fellow deputy. He suffered several fractures and a collapsed lung among his life-threatening injuries.
“I am living proof,” Seckinger said. “If it was not for that seat belt, I would not be here today.”
Law enforcement officials have begun a campaign to not only encourage but enforce seat belt use among drivers, especially among those driving on rural roads. Ordinarily, such efforts are conducted on major thoroughfares. But statistics from the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety paint a deadly picture on what are considered to be quieter roads.
“By rate, these are the most dangerous roads you can drive,” said Spencer Moore, deputy director of the GOHS. Safety belts are by far the key to surviving a crash.”
Moore and representatives from nearly a dozen Coastal Empire law enforcement agencies discussed the new initiative Friday afternoon at Veterans Park in Springfield. Moore
asked for a moment of silence for George Perry Jr., who was killed in a wreck Thursday evening at Highway 21 and Clyo-Kildare Road. Perry was not wearing his seat belt at the time.
“It is victims just like the one (Thursday) we are trying to save,” Moore said.
According to the GOHS, drivers in urban areas in 2008 were seen to wear their seat belts 84 percent of the time. That number falls to 79 percent in rural areas.
In 2007, there were 342 fatalities from automobile accidents in the five metro Atlanta counties. There were 527 fatalities from accidents in the state’s most rural counties. Accidents on state and county roads resulted in 1,252 fatalities in 2007, while 235 people were killed in accidents on the state’s interstates for the same year.
The state is embarking on “Georgia Is Buckle Up Country” to spread the word about seat belt usage.
“It sends the message we are trying to share — that seat belts save lives,” Moore said. “We want to bring this message to the rural roads.”
Moore said some drivers in rural areas, thinking that the speeds are slower on those roads, aren’t as inclined to wear their seat belts. But this effort, part of the state’s Click It or Ticket campaign that runs through Memorial Day, wants to change that thinking.
“We are out to make our highways and streets safer,” Effingham Sheriff Jimmy McDuffie said. “I hate to have to tell a family that a loved one has been killed in a wreck. Hopefully, this campaign will stop some of that.”
Law enforcement officers can write tickets for violating the state’s primary seat belt use law and said they will be doing so on the first offense.
“Our goal is not to raise revenues,” McDuffie said. “It’s to save lives.”
Pickup truck drivers over the age of 18 do not have to use seat belts. But those under 18 must be restrained, and any children in any vehicle must be in child seats or restrained by seat belts.
“Our roads have become more heavily traveled,” said Capt. Matt Libby of the Port Wentworth Police Department. “We’ll cite you if you are not buckled up and your children are not restrained. We’re out there with one goal — to keep everybody safe.”
Sgt. 1st Class Chad Riner, commander of Georgia State Patrol Post 42 in Rincon, said the post has technicians who can help drivers learn about proper child seat and seat belt use.
“Children do not have a choice to buckle up,” he said.
Law enforcement agencies will be on the roads, the main drags and the backroads, through May 31 during the Click It or Ticket push.
“We’re on the heels of Memorial Day and the summer driving season,” Riner said. “We’ll see a lot of heavy traffic. We’ll be aggressively enforcing the traffic laws.”
Said Newington Police Chief Brian Barrs: “Be ready to buckle up. It’s click it or ticket.”