5 deaths logged in Moffat and Routt this year due to no seat belts | CraigDailyPress.com

5 deaths logged in Moffat and Routt this year due to no seat belts

Patrick Kelly

A single-vehicle rollover accident happened on Moffat County Road 7 in March where a man and his 10-year-old son died. They were not wearing seat belts. The third passenger survived and was wearing a seat belt. Alcohol was also a factor in the crash, law enforcement officials said weeks after the incident.

When it comes down to facts, seat belts are often the defining factor in surviving a vehicle crash.

According to Colorado State Patrol, four accidents with a total of five causalities have occurred in Moffat and Routt counties so far in 2016.

Law enforcement officials can easily draw a connection between the deaths.

"The common denominator is that they were all unrestrained and that they all perished in the crash," State Patrol Cpt. Doug Conrad said.

Conrad said based on accident investigations conducted by state patrol, seat belts could have made all the difference.

"All of them would have survived if they were wearing their seat belts," he said.

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Fatalities from not wearing a safety restraint has become such an concern that the Colorado Department of Transportation launched a "Beware of the Beltless" campaign to emphasize the importance of buckling up.

According to a CDOT news release, "The 15 percent of Coloradans who don't buckle up represent 52 percent, or 181, of all 2015 passenger vehicle fatalities."

CDOT Communications Manager Sam Cole said it is very telling that the 15 percent of Coloradans who did not buckle up represent over 50 percent of the state's passenger vehicle fatalities.

“Even though it's a small group of people, they are hugely over represented in the fatalities and it's because they're not buckled up," he said.

Craig Resident Hunter Seim said in May of 2004 he was involved in a crash that certainly would have killed him and his son, who was three-years-old at the time, had they not been wearing their seat belts.

"You can't plan for it," he said. "When something like that happens on the highway you realize how dangerous and violent such a routine thing is and this little strip of nylon you never think about is literally the only thing between you and death."

Seim and he and his son were headed to Steamboat Springs on U.S. Highway 40 to purchase a computer cable when the driver of an oncoming vehicle went into a diabetic fit, causing the collision. The two occupants of the vehicle that collided with Seim's Subaru Forester were killed. The occupants who died were wearing their seat belts.

"Who knew that driving to Steamboat to buy something for my computer would have been a life and death thing," said Seim, emphasizing the unpredictability of fatal accidents.

Moffat County Coroner Kirk McKey explained what happens to the human body when an individual who is not wearing a seat belt dies in a car crash.

"It's always blunt-force trauma," he said. "It can be to the head, it can be to the chest but it's just the amount of G-force that hits the body that causes the death."

McKey said that unrestrained crash victims are frequently ejected from the vehicle and the deaths are often preventable.

"That simple little click can save so many lives," he said. "Our drivers really need to take responsibility when people get in their car. They are the captain of the ship."

State patrol spokesman Nate Reid said modern highway and vehicle safety has improved drastically but it's no good if people don't wear their seat belts.

"If your seat belt is not on, the vehicle can crush around you and your body becomes a missile," he said. "If you're going 75 miles per hour, everything in your vehicle is going 75 miles per hour, including your brain, your heart, your lungs and everything else."

Reid said bringing all of that momentum to an abrupt stop is a danger even when wearing a seat belt but the survivability rate is much greater when using safety restraints.

In the case of rollover accidents, Reid implied that not wearing a seat belt is likely a death sentence.

"At 75 miles an hour if you begin to roll, you're travelling 110 feet per second," he said. "It doesn't take long for you to be thrown an amazing distance… That's why seat belts are so important — they keep us in our chair."

Contact Patrick Kelly at 970-875-1795 or Contact Patrick Kelly at 970-875-1795 or pkelly@CraigDailyPress.com or follow him on Twitter @M_PKelly.Contact Patrick Kelly at 970-875-1795 or pkelly@CraigDailyPress.com or follow him on Twitter @M_PKelly.