Seat belt campaign kicks off in Mississippi - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Mississippi man uses personal story for seat belt campaign

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JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

When 26 year old Ryan Estep of Florence was behind the wheel of his truck back in August of 2005, he never expected his life was about to change.

"We were only going about 45 miles per hour. We weren't doing anything crazy, just driving down the road and the tire came off," said Estep.

That sent Estep and his passenger into a ditch, flipping his truck just one time. Neither one of them had on a seat belt.

"Neither one of us had a single scratch, cut, bruise or anything on us, but I had just twisted just enough the wrong way to where it left me paralyzed from the waist down," said Estep.

Luckily for Estep, he's still alive to tell about it. For many others that's not the case which is why law enforcement agencies across the state are teaming up. It's part of a statewide campaign known as 'Click it or Ticket' that's been happening for years, and for good reason.

"Click it or ticket works," Shirley Thomas, director of the Mississippi Office of Highway Safety.

Since 2005, the number of traffic deaths in Mississippi has gone down every year. Last year there were 582. Of those, 302 were because of drivers or passengers who were not buckled up. The state's observed seat belt usage rate is about 82 percent, which is under the national average of 86 percent. Officers say by being visible, through campaigns like this one, that rate will improve.

"This seat belt campaign is not about writing tickets. It never has been. It is literally about saving lives and nothing is more important than that," said Albert Santa Cruz, commissioner of the Department of Public Safety.

For Estep, he says it's taken a while to get over the fact he didn't take a few seconds to strap in.

"Had I just had a seat belt on, I would be in a much different place today," said Estep.

The 'Click it or Ticket' campaign will run from May 20th through June 2nd.

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