ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – Jennifer Riegel pointed to the framed photo of the smashed-up car she nearly died in a decade ago.
“They told me if I hadn’t been wearing my seatbelt, that I could have went through the windshield onto the pavement and died,” she recalled.
Officials with MoDOT and law enforcers had Riegel tell the story of her 2001 crash during a press conference at Busch Stadium Friday to convince others to buckle up.
Leanna Depue, Director of Highway Safety for MoDOT, says when it comes to that message Missourians seem to be slow on the uptake — and many are paying for it with their lives.
“Seven out of ten people in Missouri traffic crashes are unbuckled,” Depue said. “In spite of all of our educational efforts, our law enforcement efforts.”
In fact, seatbelt compliance in the Show-Me State continues to hover around 76% as it has for years, MoDOT officials pointed out.
That lags well behind the national average of 85%.
Officials hope to push those numbers up from May 23 through June 5, when police officers crack down on seatbelt use during the Click It or Ticket campaign.
“It’s time we try some new things in our state to increase seat belt usage,” Depue said. “Our job is to reduce fatalities and injuries on our roads, and if we can’t get more people to buckle up, we’re not going to be able to keep them safe.”
According to Depue, those new strategies will include using portable message boards and partnering with high schools and major employers to urge them to adopt seatbelt policies.
As for crash survivor Jennifer Riegel, she’s grateful every day that she made the fateful decision to take an extra second or two to buckle up on that winter night nearly a decade ago.
“I had a few broken ribs, my right ankle was broken, my right knee had hit the dash, split open, and was also broken,” she remembered. “But I was still alive.”
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