Hwy. 45 crash brings ‘buckle up’ warnings

TUPELO – With two children still in Le Bonheur Children’s Medical Center after being thrown from a vehicle Monday, law enforcers want to make sure people understand and follow child restraint laws.
Neither child was in a seat belt when the white SUV driven by their father blew a tire and flipped several times Monday on U.S. Highway 45 near Saltillo. At least one of the children was thrown from the vehicle.
Even though seat belts are not guaranteed to save lives, officials say they vastly increase a person’s chances of survival when an accident occurs. But despite the advantages of seat belts, nearly 7,500 tickets were written statewide in 2009 for child restraint violations.
Tupelo Police Lt. Tim Clouse said that when officers see a child riding in a vehicle unrestrained, they make sure the driver knows it’s a violation of the law.
“If we see a car going down the road and a child is running around inside of it, we are going to make a stop,” said Clouse. “There is no reason to ride around with a child not buckled in. It is dangerous for the driver, the child and other motorists. This is something we take very seriously.”
In 2009 eight children 4 years old and younger died in car crashes, according to the Mississippi Department of Public Safety. Four were unrestrained.
According to the law, all children under 8 years old have to be in seat belts. All children under the age of 4 have to be in car seats; children between ages 4 and 7 must be in booster seats.
Even though no device guarantees safety, Mississippi Highway Patrolman Ray Hall said leaving children unrestrained seriously decreases their chances of survival if an accident does happen.
“The child restraint law is one that we enforce very strictly because these children can’t make their own decisions, so we feel like it’s our duty to make sure they are protected,” said Hall.
Violating the child restraint and booster seat law carries a $118 fine; for seat belt violations, the cost is $25.

Contact Danza Johnson at (662) 678-1583 or danza.johnson@djournal.com.

Danza Johnson/NEMS Daily Journal