On the evening of Nov. 14, 2006, Pearse's two children were traveling south on Highway 49 near the Mississippi Gulf Coast in the rain, his oldest, Kiara, 17, behind the wheel. They hydroplaned, flipping in the median and launching Kiara and her 15-year-old brother Jameel from their green Honda Civic to their deaths.
Pearse, a military retiree, said he couldn't go on base without wearing a seat belt and he tried to instill the importance of wearing a seat belt in his children.
"I would remind them to put theirs on, they would remind me to wear mine," Pearse said. "It came as a shock because it was something we talked about a lot."
In Mississippi, 81 percent of teens ages 15-19 killed in traffic crashes were not wearing their seat belt and 86 percent of children 10-14, according to the Mississippi Office of Highway Safety.
Mississippi drivers reported wearing a seat belt 81.88 percent of the time in 2011, up from 71.3 percent seat-belt wearers in 2008. Since 2008, traffic fatalities have decreased from 783 to 630.
This Memorial Day weekend, law enforcement officials around the state will be cracking down on seat-belt violations, handing out tickets which start with a base fine of $25.
Highway safety officials estimate seat belts could save 65 percent of people who die in traffic accidents.
"As a parent, I never saw my children graduate, never walked my daughter down the aisle," Pearse said. "I won't be a grandparent. My son was the only male for my parents and the name will stop. You think about handing stuff down to your children, we have no one to do that to. You lose all of that ..."
The Office of Highway Safety estimates that traffic fatalities not only cost the state lives but approximately $1.66 billion. When non-fatal accidents are included, the state spends about $2.51 billion on accident response and medical care.
Pearse said he thinks the fine could be higher to help increase seat-belt use.
"The fine is only $25 and the thing about all of this is, the deaths can be preventable if you just put your seat belt on."
By the Numbers
84 – Percent of Americans who wear seatbelts
81.88 – Percent of Mississippians who wear
74.4 – Percent of Lee County residents who