Four lives were lost in vehicle accidents over the weekend, all involving unrestrained passengers in their teens and 20s.
The California Highway Patrol (CHP) said that the majority of the fatal car accidents the agency investigates involve passengers who weren't wearing their seatbelts. In the cases of the four who died this weekend, the agency said a seatbelt likely would have saved their lives.
Aaron Kim, 22, was killed Friday night when the car he was in crossed the median on Miramar Road and slammed head-on into a minivan.
He was ejected from the vehicle and died Saturday morning at the hospital. The investigation determined that he was not wearing a seatbelt.
On Sunday in Fallbrook just after 1 a.m., an unrestrained 20-year-old female lost her life when the car she was riding swerved into oncoming traffic and collided with a U-Haul truck.
Guadalupe Esmeralda was pronounced dead at the scene. Three other people in the vehicle, including the driver, weren't wearing their seatbelts either, according to the CHP. The 17-year-old driver had to be medevaced to an area hospital with major injuries.
"She was being a little irresponsible not to think but then again, we’ve all done it," Guadalupe's uncle Antonio Ramirez said. "I’m guilty of not putting my seatbelt on. I’ve done it many times.”
A 17-year-old man was killed later that day on Interstate 15 when the car he was in lost control in HOV lanes north of Mira Mesa Boulevard.
Witnesses reported seeing the silver BMW swerve to the right and then back to the left before slamming into the center divider. The minor was unrestrained and was ejected from the car. Despite life-saving efforts by paramedics, he was pronounced dead at the scene.
Later that night, a 25-year-old Vista man ran a red light on Carlsbad Village Drive and hit a guardrail causing his truck to flip over onto its roof. The man wasn't wearing a seatbelt and was ejected upon impact. He was later pronounced dead at the hospital
CHP Officer Jake Sanchez said that one simple step could have saved the lives of all four victims.
"The majority of these crashes, had they been wearing their seatbelts, the likelihood is that they may have survived and maybe walked away with very minor injuries," Sanchez said. "Once you're not restrained, you're bouncing around inside that car. Not only is that person a threat to themselves, but they're also a threat to anyone else in the car."
Officer Sanchez speaks to high schoolers about the dangers of irresponsible driving and often shows a graphic video that shows what often happens to unrestrained bodies in the cabin of a wrecking vehicle.
"It takes two seconds," Ramirez added. "We’ve all done it. I’ve done it many times. Just two seconds of buckling up can save a life.”
About 4,000 teens in the United States die in car crashes every year and close to 60 percent of those victims are unrestrained, according to the CHP.
In California, the CHP says about 3 percent of drivers don't wear their seatbelts.