Seat belts save lives of motorists every, single year

This past weekend two young lives were lost in separate Terrebonne Parish traffic incidents.

The loss of life – as is often the case in recent years – can be measured to some degree by the nature and number of social media posts that have appeared, attempts to express the immediate shock and the pain of loss. They are no doubt the tip of an emotional iceberg that runs deep through our community.

The first tragedy took place on Coteau Road near Bayou Gardens Boulevard, just a little before 6 a.m. Saturday.

Britt Domangue, 31-years-old, was driving a 2011 Ford Ranger, heading south. The Ranger ran off the road to the right and hit a guardrail, then came back onto the highway and crossed the centerline. A Honda was heading north at the time, driven by a Texas woman named Mercedes Patterson. She was apparently not able to stop, and the State Police say she struck Domangue’s vehicle. Britt Domangue was pronounced dead at the scene.

The State Police said he was not wearing a seat belt. People who knew him are mourning the loss of a talented musician with a big career in front of him, who inspired many, and who now will no longer grace these friends and fans with his presence. The woman in the Honda, Ms. Patterson, suffered what the police said were minor injuries. She was wearing a seat belt. Domangue had a little boy, friends said, who must now grow up without a father.

About ninety minutes later troopers responded to another wreck, this one on Southdown Mandalay Road east of Savanne Road. Karen Owen, who was 30-years-old, was driving a 2005 Cadillac deVille west-bound on Southdown-Mandalay. She entered an S-curve in the roadway and for reasons nobody knows ran off the roadway to the right. She steered to the left and then ran off the road to the left, striking a tree, The Cadillac went into Bayou Black, where it was partially submerged. In her case a seatbelt was worn. The injuries she suffered, troopers said, were nonetheless fatal.

She was a mother and beloved by many people whose lives shine less brightly because she is not in them anymore. State Police said they suspect alcohol as a factor. The standard tests are still pending.

A glance at the reports seem to tell a contradictory story in one sense. True, Britt Domangue did not wear a seatbelt. Karen Owen did, but it does not appear to have helped.

State Police and other officials tell us time and again that seatbelts save lives. For some reason, too many of us choose to replace their experience with our own logic – our alternative truths – and say it won’t happen to us. We offer excuses. To this day people say they think they will be “thrown clear” of a wreck without a seatbelt. Others say they don’t travel fast or far enough to wear the seatbelt. Still others say they don’t wear the seatbelt as a sign of political protest. All these seatbelt laws, they have reasoned, got forced on Louisiana by Washington D.C., and we don’t need a nanny state to tell us what to do.

If Britt Domangue had worn a seatbelt, would he have survived? We don’t know, certainly. But the odds are good, based on everything we know, that such a thing just might have happened.

As for the suggestion that the Bayou Black wreck involved alcohol use, we have a suggestion.

The law certainly does allow up to .08 blood alcohol content. But who really wants to play that game? Who wants to have a night of fun spoiled by math and calculations? What many people do of late is just not drink at all if they are going to drive. It makes for more of a potential that they can give a lift to someone else who needs one because they did drink.

We aren’t trying to be preachy, but we can’t help thinking that if one life is saved because we are, then the exercise is worth it.

It is sad we have to print stories about anyone’s death in a wreck. We are hoping to do it a lot less.