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Southeast Georgia Leads the State in Teen Traffic Deaths
Tuesday, 26 March 2013

March 26-- More teenagers die in traffic accidents in southeast Georgia than in any other part of the state.  The main reason is they don't wear seat belts.

Billy Fulks from the Georgia Department of Health is heading a program to turn that around.  It's called "Drive Alive."

"When we look at the state as a whole, we're doing very well.  Eight-eight to eighty-nine percent of the folks are buckling up.  When we get out to the rural areas, especially the southeast, we have a problem with teen drivers and our death rate is higher than any part of the state," Fulks says.

Bonnie Brantley with the local "Safe Kids" program says surveys at Vidalia High School and Toombs County High School show only about 20 percent of the teenage drivers are buckled up.

The percentage at Wayne County High School in Jesup was low, too, until a popular teenager was killed.  His friend, Hope Waldron, says 80 percent of her schoolmates are now using seat belts.

"It was because of seeing such a young person lose his life."  But she admits before that, it wasn't cool to buckle up.

"A lot of kids my age are very immature and they don't think it's cool to wear a seat belt.  They think it's not popular to wear a seat belt, but if more kids take a stand it will be more popular and there'll be a lot of lives changed because one person took a stand and did something," she believes.

A sophomore at Vidalia High School is alive today because she was wearing her seat belt.  Adeline Frost was calling her Mom on her cellphone when she lost control of her car only three days after getting her driver's license.

"I don't remember looking down but I do remember looking up.  That was the scariest experience of my life.  You don't realize how far you move in three seconds.  I know it (the seat belt) saved me because I would have gone outside the car and I would have been underneath the car," she remembers. 

Fulks says he frustrated because in the 26 southeast Georgia counties with the biggest problem, only 13 schools are allowing their students to cooperate with the "Drive Alive" program in an effort to educate students that seat belts save lives.

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