HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - A father who lost his two teenage children in a car accident is asking Mississippi legislators to make seatbelt usage mandatory for everyone riding in vehicles. Right now, Mississippi doesn't require anyone in the back seat who is over the age of six to wear a seatbelt.
Seven years ago everything changed for Brian Pearse. His 17-year-old daughter Kiara was driving home from school with her younger brother, 15-year-old Jameel, in the passenger seat.
"In 2006, I lost my two children to a car accident and was saddened to learn that neither one of them had a seatbelt on," Pearse said.
"Both of them were ejected out from the car, and as a result of their injuries, both of them died. Since then I've educated myself and been involved in vehicle safety issues."
While researching Mississippi laws, Pearse said he was surprised to learn only front seat passengers and children under the age of seven are required to wear seat belts. He enlisted the help of State Representative Sonya Williams-Barnes of Gulfport. She has agreed to present a bill in the upcoming session to require people in the back to also buckle up.
"I understand that we do have choices, but we as drivers, I think we also have a responsibility to protect those who are in the cars with us," said Williams-Barnes.
"So if we have some rules and regulations that regulate what we are to do as drivers of a vehicle I think it will help us be more responsible drivers."
Pearse said when drivers are more responsible; Mississippi's roads are made safer. He is especially concerned about protecting children.
"Every time you get in a car you should be in a seatbelt or some type of restraint," said Pearse.
"Why do we cut it off at seven? Why not 9, 10 or 11? Any time a child is in a car they need to be restrained. Their bodies are not as developed. They're not physically strong. They need to be in a restraint. I don't care if you're going around the corner. Motor vehicle crashes, no one can predict a crash."
Williams-Barnes said the proposed law carries a $25 fine for not buckling up in the back seat. However, she said that could change depending on what comes out of the debate.