State troopers and local law enforcement are asking everyone to make the summer travel season a safe one this year by remembering to click their seat belt or risk being handed a ticket.

With many Georgians expected to be on the road during the Memorial Day holiday weekend, officers are sharing personal stories of seat belts saving their lives or the lives of others to show why everyone needs to buckle up on every trip.

Deputy Brandon Farmer is a member of the Newton County Sheriff’s Office Highway Enforcement of Aggressive Traffic team. He credits a seat belt with saving his life in a crash that killed two of his friends when he was 17 years old. His two friends were not wearing a seat belt, and one was ejected from the truck on impact with another vehicle. Losing his friends almost 20 years ago is always on his mind when he has to notify a family that a loved one has been killed in a traffic crash.

Cpl. Kris Herrick with the Crisp County Sheriff’s Office credits a seat belt saving his life during a crash in his patrol car in 2008 when he was working for the Cordele Police Department. He was not injured when his patrol car hit a culvert, went airborne over a vehicle that pulled out in front him and then landed in the median. Investigations by the Georgia State Patrol and insurance companies determined he would have been ejected from his car had he not been wearing his seat belt. Surviving that crash has led him to become a certified child passenger safety seat technician.

Cpl. Kris Hall is part of the Habersham County Sheriff’s Office H.E.A.T. team that has been working to reduce the number of people killed in traffic crashes in the popular tourist spot in the northeast Georgia mountains. Hall was called to a crash in April 2021 involving an SUV and a pickup truck on a four-lane highway where the speed limit is 65 miles per hour. A family of six, including four children under the age of 5, were not seriously hurt, while the driver of the truck — who was not wearing a seat belt, suffered several broken bones and was taken to a local hospital.

Preliminary data from the Georgia Department of Transportation shows the number of people killed in traffic crashes through the first four months of 2021 is 18% higher than for the same time period last year and 60% of those killed in traffic crashes so far this year in Georgia were not wearing seat belts.

The 2021 Memorial Day Holiday travel period begins Friday at 6 p.m. and runs through Monday at 11:59 p.m. According to the GSP, 15 people were killed in traffic crashes during the 78-hour Memorial Day holiday weekend last year.

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