One thousand people died on South Carolina roads in 2018, more than half weren’t wearing seatbelts.
That’s why the Burton Fire District, South Carolina Highway Patrol and a former student at Battery Creek High School teamed up to share an important safety message with students Tuesday.
“Back in 2009, I was 16 years old..,” Kelli Burke told the room of students. She was a varsity cheerleader at Battery Creek.
“My friend who was driving, he could feel himself getting tired, but we were so close to getting home that he thought he could make it,” she said, “Unfortunately, he fell asleep.”
The car, with four other people in it, went off the road and flipped several times. Burke was thrown from the vehicle.
She says not putting on a seat belt, just once, changed the rest of her life.
“I am definitely lucky to be here. I don’t think I should have lived through that, but I am now paralyzed from the chest down and they say I will never walk again,” Burke said.
The Burton Fire District and SC Highway Patrol (SCHP) say it’s a reality they see every day.
“We’re here because I’ve been in the emergency business 28 years, and I’ve seen too many injuries and deaths that could have been prevented simply by a preventative measure, in this case, simply putting on your seat belt,” Dan Byrne with Burton Fire told the students.
“We want to get the message across to these young people that it can happen to them,” said LCpl. Matt Southern with the SCHP.
The most recent victim was 17-year-old Kevin Morazan, a student at Whale Branch High who was killed when his car went off the road. He wasn’t wearing a seat belt.
Students in drivers education classes at Battery Creek listened intently, shocked by pictures, stories and a dummy child thrown from a flipping car simulation.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re driving from here to that light pole down there, put your seat belt on,” Southern told them.
A simple click could be the difference between living dreams or a life-long nightmare.
“Next time you get into a vehicle, remember my story,” Burke told the students. “And know that something like this, it can happen and it happens every day.”
The team wants to do more of these presentations in local high schools. They say age is critical because it’s their last chance to get kids’ attention before they hit the roads.