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Seat belts and car seats have long been touted as providing an essential safety function in the event of a vehicle accident. On September 1, 2009, on Route 295, a jarring tragedy served as another reminder of this fact.

Three women were riding in a Mercedes SUV when it lost control and rolled over. All three women were ejected from the vehicle in the accident, and preliminary evidence indicates that none of the women was wearing a seatbelt. Also in the car were three children aged eight months and one and two years. All three children were in the vehicle when emergency crews arrived on scene – still buckled into their car seats. The three children were treated for minor injuries at the scene. The accident is still being investigated. Police identified the victims Wednesday.

Sheila A. Armstrong, 23, of 189 Hunts Ave., Pawtucket, who was driving the Mercedes sport utility vehicle, was pronounced dead at Rhode Island Hospital, according to the Rhode Island State Police. Passenger Kayla R. Pine, 21, of 1644 Main St., West Warwick, was also pronounced dead at Rhode Island Hospital.

Another passenger is now in serious condition at Rhode Island Hospital. She is Claire L. Narvaez, 23, of 203 Sayles Ave., Pawtucket. She remains in the trauma and intensive care unit at Rhode Island Hospital, according to the state police.

This tragedy may have been lessened. Accidents such as this one occur every day in the United States and serve as grim reminders of the dangers of not buckling up. For the three children, their lives were saved in this accident, likely solely because of their car seats. It is critical that all children be buckled up either in car seats, booster seats or, if their height and weight permit, with adult seatbelts. Just as critical is ensuring that booster seats and car seats fit child passengers properly and that they are installed properly. Many fire stations and some hospitals offer assistance to drivers to insure that safety seats are installed properly.

For drivers, be sure you always wear your seatbelt, and begin a habit of insisting that all passengers in your vehicle are also buckled up. This is not only for your safety but also because many states now have laws which permit an officer to pull a driver over simply for failing to wear a seatbelt. Adjust the seatbelt, if you are able, to fit comfortably since a comfortable seatbelt is a seatbelt which is more likely to be worn.

The accident on the 295 is a terrible tragedy, and the lives of the victims’ families will never be the same because of it. The light of hope out of this incident is that the three children survived with only minor injuries and can be ambassadors, simply by their survival, of the benefits of taking those few extra seconds to buckle up.

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