Troopers: Seatbelts make survival more likely in rollover crash

HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - It has been a tragic last few days on South Mississippi highways. A fatal accident Thursday morning has the Mississippi Highway Patrol again stressing the importance of buckling up.

Two people have died on South Mississippi roads in the last three days after being ejected during a crash. State Troopers said 63-year-old Arthur Barnes, Jr. of Saucier was driving southbound on Highway 67 when he was struck from behind causing his car to flip several times. Troopers said Barnes wasn't wearing a seatbelt and was thrown out.

The Highway Patrol worked another fatal crash scene on Tuesday in Hancock County when a woman ran off the road, spun around and hit a tree. She was also ejected from her vehicle.

"In both cases there was a high probability the drivers would have survived these crashes if they would have had their seat belt on," said Lt. Johnny Poulos.

Although seatbelts for front seat passengers has been mandatory in Mississippi for many years, troopers said there are still people who opt not to buckle up.

"I think a lot of people think it's their right to make the determination, should I have to wear the seatbelt or not, and we understand that, but there's a misinterpretation also of what happens when you do not have your seatbelt on in a crash," said Poulos.

"When you are ejected out of the vehicle, sometimes 30 to 40 feet in the air, 70 to 80 miles an hour. Or if you do not have your seatbelt on and someone else is riding in the vehicle with you and you're not belted in, you're basically a human projectile that you can bounce around in the car and take everyone else's life," Poulos said.

The Rollover Simulator is a way to try to save lives. The Highway Patrol takes the demonstration of what happens when a car flips to high school and colleges.

"Unfortunately, Mississippi always ranks first, second or third in the nation in teenage driving fatalities, and the majority of those fatalities are the teens are not wearing their seatbelt," Poulos said.

"As adults we need to set an example. We need to be wearing seatbelts and we need to make sure our teenagers, our young students know important. It is for them to survive a crash and to make it on down the road," said Poulos. "In a rollover situation there is a high probability that when you are ejected you're not going to survive a crash. If you're in your vehicle, you are restrained and the vehicle goes into a roll, there is a high probability you will survive the crash."

Poulos said he encourages people to do what they can to save their families pain.

"We know people have differing opinions, but when we go out to these crashes, we have to notify a loved one that their family member is not coming home. That decision, that one little click could have prevented that. That's what we're trying to get out to the public," said Poulos.

The Thursday morning accident on Highway 67 happened around 6 a.m. According to witnesses, Barnes didn't have his vehicle lights turned on at the time of the accident.

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