BY DAVID AND WENDY MILLSS
In the blink of an eye, our 16-year-old daughter was gone. She had just left with her friends to go to a Halloween party. They were only a few blocks away from our house when their car veered off the road. Her three friends walked away with minor cuts and bruises, but Kailee was killed when she was thrown from the vehicle. She was the only one not wearing a seat belt. That was October 28, 2017 — a day we will never forget.
We couldn’t believe Kailee had taken off her seat belt. She always wore it. Her friends said she only took it off for a second to slide over to take a selfie. In the weeks after the crash, we looked up statistics on seat belt use and traffic crashes. What we found surprised us. We learned how many people die each year on our roads because they weren’t buckled up.
Last year alone, 929 people weren’t wearing a seat belt and died in traffic crashes in Texas even though the seat belt use rate in our state has topped 90 percent in recent years. Each one of those fatalities leaves family and friends who must find the strength to carry on without them. That deep loss is difficult and painful beyond words. We know that pain firsthand because we live with it every day.
We hope our daughter’s death can serve as a lesson to others about the importance of wearing seat belts. We want to turn our loss into something positive and have put our energies into helping build awareness about the importance of seat belt use.
That’s why we support the Texas Department of Transportation’s “Click It or Ticket” campaign. We want people to realize that wearing a seat belt is the single best step you can take to protect yourself in a crash. Wearing a seat belt reduces the risk of dying in a crash by 45 percent in a passenger vehicle, and up to 60 percent in a pickup truck.
And, in case you need a reminder, police around the state will be on the lookout for people not wearing seat belts through June 3 as part of this year’s “Click It or Ticket” campaign. If you’re not wearing your seat belt, they will ticket you. Texas law requires everyone — drivers and passengers — in a vehicle to be properly buckled up, and children should be secured in a child safety seat or booster seat appropriate for their age and size.
It’s unfortunate some people need the threat of a ticket to remind them to wear a seat belt when the consequences can go far beyond paying a fine. No one should have to tell you to buckle up. You should want to do it for yourself and your loved ones. You don’t get a second chance if you’re in a crash and not wearing a seat belt. For almost 1,000 people every year in Texas, there is no “what if I had buckled up.” There’s only pain and loss for those left behind to mourn you.
We know Kailee would have wanted us to turn her death into something positive because she was always a “glass half full” kind of girl. We hope that by sharing her story we can save lives so one day no one will have to mourn the loss of a loved one simply because that person was not buckled up. Click it or ticket.