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01-11-04: Snapping buckles probably kept local teens alive


Two local teens likely saved their own lives Saturday night by buckling up before heading out.
Ohio State Highway Patrol troopers said the pair of 18-year-olds could easily have been killed when the 2000 Plymouth Voyager van they were riding in traveled off Botkins Angle Road near the village of New Knoxville and landed upside down in a ditch about 7:41 p.m.
The driver, Ashley J. Rammel of New Bremen, and her passenger, April M. Phlipot of St. Marys, were both suspended upside down by their shoulder/lap belts when the van came to rest in a ditch, according to a report from the Wapakoneta post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP).
“That van rolled twice before stopping,” said Sgt. Rick Albers of the Wapakoneta post. “Without restraints, they could have been ejected or bounced around inside like pinballs.”
The report said Rammel was driving the van southeast when she failed to negotiate a curve. The vehicle traveled off the left side of the road where it struck a rock and a tree before overturning onto its top.
Rammel was cited for failure to control.
Albers, a Minster native, said arriving at an accident scene such as that one leads you to expect a tragic outcome. Instead, the pair were taken to Joint Township District Memorial Hospital, St. Marys, for minor injuries.
Getting young people to wear seat belts sometimes takes some convincing, law enforcement officers say. They feel “invincible” and tend to cite accidents where people claimed to have escaped injury by not wearing safety belts.
“Those cases are few and far between,” said Albers, who worked 10 years at the Dayton post of the OSHP.
Albers said there are definitely more rollover situations here in the Grand Lake St. Marys area where there are more rural roadways. Rollovers tend to produce more seriously injured victims.
“And, for me being out there every day, I can tell you this: What could have been a minor injury accident many times turns into a fatal accident when people don’t wear belts,” Albers said.
For motorists who won’t take the word of law enforcement officers, perhaps statistics will get the point across:
• Two-thirds of those killed in Ohio crashes in recent years weren’t wearing safety belts.
• Of those killed in fatal crashes, persons aged 21-30 chose not to buckle most frequently.
An ongoing campaign called “What’s Holding You Back? Click it or Ticket,” used by local law officers to encourage seat belt usage, is being credited with increasing Ohio’s seat belt usage to an all-time high of 70.3 percent.
The northwest portion of Ohio (including Mercer and Auglaize counties) currently has the highest number of motorists using seat belts across the state with 73.9 percent, according to statistics from the Ohio Department of Public Safety. The lowest usage area is in the northeast where only 63.7 percent buckle up.
“For the most part, we’re seeing usage in about half the people involved in accidents here,” Albers said. “It’s just not enough and we (OSHP) don’t have a tolerance for it.”


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