A second deadly motor vehicle accident in Dyer County on Friday, July 26, may have turned out differently if seatbelts had been worn.
According to the Tennessee Highway Patrol, two vehicles collided along the 9-mile marker on Highway 78 around 9:59 p.m., killing both drivers. A THP report of the accident states, 32-year-old Sybil Schenk of Dyersburg, Tenn. was headed northbound on Highway 78 in a 2006 Pontiac GS1. Her vehicle reportedly crossed the centerline and struck a 2008 Nissan Altima, driven by 55-year-old Paula Wilson of Dyersburg, Tenn.
Both women were reportedly dead at the scene. THP Trooper Nicholas Hollowell worked the accident and stated in his report that neither driver was wearing a seatbelt during the time of the crash. His opinion was it would have made a difference in the accident if they had been worn. A drug and alcohol test was requested by the trooper on the drivers of both vehicles. The results are not back at this time.
This was the second deadly wreck that happened in Dyer County on Friday in which seatbelts were not used. The first occurred around 6:30 p.m. on Friday when a green 1998 Chevrolet Lumina was traveling westbound on Upper Finley Road. Approximately 25 yards west of the Jenkinsville-Jamestown Road turnoff, the car reportedly left the road and became airborne after hitting a culvert. The car flipped and landed on its top.
Emergency personnel were dispatched and arrived to find a male and female reportedly lying outside the vehicle. Both victims were transported to Dyersburg Regional Medical Center where the male was later pronounced dead. The female was flown to the Med in Memphis where her status was listed as critical on Friday evening. The male was identified as Ralph E. Robertson, 52, 1600 Harris St., Dyersburg, Tenn. The female is 45-year-old Elizabeth Copeland of Dyersburg, Tenn.
Dyersburg Police crash investigator Chad Webb said the victims were reportedly not wearing their seatbelts when the crash occurred.
According to the Governor's Highway Safety Office, every hour, at least one person in this country dies because he or she did not buckle up. Failure to use a seatbelt contributes to more fatalities than any other single traffic safety-related behavior. More than 60 percent of vehicle occupants killed in crashes in Tennessee were not wearing safety belts. Research shows it is almost nine times safer to wear your safety belt. In Tennessee, it is against the law to operate a motor vehicle without wearing a seatbelt.
The Highway Traffic Safety Administration has several suggestions on buckling up.
1. Buckling up is the single most effective thing you can do to protect yourself in a crash.
In 2008, seatbelts saved more than 13,000 lives nationwide. From 2004 to 2008, seatbelts saved over 75,000 lives -- enough people to fill a large sports arena. During a crash, being buckled up helps keep you safe and secure inside your vehicle, whereas being completely thrown out of a vehicle is almost always deadly. Seatbelts are the best defense against impaired, aggressive, and distracted drivers.
2. Air bags are designed to work with seatbelts, not replace them. In fact, if you don't wear your seatbelt, you could be thrown into a rapidly opening frontal air bag; a movement of such force could injure or even kill you. See www.safercar.gov for more on air bag safety.
3. How to buckle up safely: The lap belt and shoulder belt are secured across the pelvis and rib cage, which are more able to withstand crash forces than other parts of your body.
4. Fit matters:
* Before you buy a new car, check to see that its seatbelts are a good fit for you.
* Ask your dealer about seat belt adjusters, which can help you get the best fit.
* If you need a roomier belt, contact your vehicle manufacturer to obtain seatbelt extenders.
* If you drive an older or classic car with lap belts only, check with your vehicle manufacturer about how to retrofit your car with today's safer lap/shoulder belts.
5. Occupant protection is for everyone: Visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Web site at www.nhtsa.gov and click on 4 Steps for Kids to find out how to secure your littlest passengers. If you're expecting a little one, check out NHTSA's "Should pregnant women wear seat belts?" brochure online to learn how important it is for you -- and your unborn child -- to buckle up the right way every trip, every time.