Powerful words here and in Columbus stress importance of buckling up

LISBON – While law enforcement officials and politicians kicked off the annual Click It or Ticket campaign locally in Lisbon early on Tuesday, the parents of one Minerva child killed after she was thrown from a vehicle was scheduled to testify later in the day in Columbus about new seat belt legislation.

Addisyn Benzel, 11, was thrown from a vehicle she was riding in with family friends in January, after the vehicle she was riding in was struck head-on by a vehicle which reportedly went left of center. Benzel, the driver, James Nign, and his wife, Meghann Nign, were all killed in the crash.

Benzel’s parents were scheduled to testify in front of the Senate Transportation Committee Tuesday afternoon. They are among those supporting Senate Bill 302 introduced by state Sen. Joe Schiavoni. If it passes, the legislation would allow law enforcement to pull over a vehicle based on seeing unrestrained children riding inside.

Schiavoni noted currently the law considers seat belt use by children 15 and under to be a secondary offense. Law enforcement can only cite someone after pulling them over of another offense.

However, Schiavoni said he hopes the tougher law will encourage more people to buckle up their children and prevent more deaths in crashes like the one Benzel was involved in. Four of the seven children riding in that vehicle were not buckled in. Neither were the two adults.

Also speaking at the kickoff event was Lt. Joe Dragovich, commander of the Lisbon post of the highway patrol, who talked about how many deaths there have already been in Columbiana County this year. There have already been eight fatal crashes with 10 deaths and not a single person among those killed was wearing their seat restraints.

Dragovich pointed out it is predictable that those who are not wearing a seat belt are more likely to be killed in an accident. He notes 88 percent of those who die in crashes are unrestrained.

Additionally, while some people believe it is a privacy issue, wearing a seat belt is their choice and they believe they are a safe driver, Dragovich counters by noting the seat belt is protection against other people’s bad choices. The other drivers can be distracted or under the influence of alcohol or drugs and the impending accident is out of the safe driver’s control.

County commissioners and law enforcement officials from the highway patrol, county sheriff’s office and local police from across the county were also on hand for the event.