Vince Meadows received a call on Feb. 2 that he hopes no other parent will have to answer.
The voice on the line informed him that his 18-year-old daughter, Callie Meadows, had been involved in a car crash in Appling. News of the wreck, which turned out to be fatal, left him grief-stricken.
"Parents need to be aware that each time that kid leaves the house, they never know if they're going to get a phone call," Meadows said.
Callie is one of four young Columbia County residents who lost their lives in car crashes in less than two months.
Jessica Fulmer and Melissa Eustice, both 2005 graduates of Lakeside High School, were killed in February after the SUV they were in flipped on Interstate 16 near Metter, Ga.
Nearly two weeks ago, Robbie Williams, a 1999 Lakeside High School graduate, died in a car crash on Interstate 20 near Grovetown.
Authorities suspect none of the four victims was wearing a seat belt.
"You don't know what your kids do once they leave the house," Meadows said. "You more or less preach to them about the safety of wearing seat belts and paying attention while they're driving."
MCG Health sought to increase awareness for teen drivers Tuesday at Wesley United Methodist Church in Evans with their seminar Parents Reducing Incidents of Driver Error, or P.R.I.D.E.
P.R.I.D.E was developed by the University of Georgia Traffic Injury Prevention Institute and is held by Safe Kids East Central at the MCG Health Children's Medical Center once every other month at the church.
Safe Kids Coordinator and P.R.I.D.E volunteer Rene Hopkins taught the program along with David Earnest. Proper seat belt use was a key part of the night's overall message.
"Buckling up is a must," she said. "We really want these teenagers to make the choice to live."
The two-hour program featured a PowerPoint presentation containing teen accident statistics and accident footage.
During the second half of the presentation, parents and teenagers were split into two different groups to learn about Georgia's teen driving laws and responsibilities.
"It's not necessarily a rite of passage," Hopkins said. "It's a privilege. It's not a right, and we want them to understand that."
The explicit videos seemed to leave an impression with parents and teens alike.
Wendy Flowers, who attended the P.R.I.D.E program with her 15-year-old son, Jack, said she wanted him to learn about car safety.
"I think it's critical, and it should be mandatory," Flowers said. "I'm glad about the graphic videos because that hits home for them."
According to the Governor's Office of Highway Safety, more than 10,000 lives are saved each year by safety belts in the United States, and safety belts increase the chance of survival by 45 percent.
"People know they should buckle up, but despite that awareness, there are many not taking the necessary steps to protect themselves on every ride," Columbia County's Sheriff's Capt. Steve Morris said.
"Safety belts are the most effective means of saving lives and reducing serious injuries in traffic crashes."
He said adults and teens often don't buckle up, but young adults ages 18-25 seem to be especially susceptible.
"According to our traffic officers who investigate these crashes, it seems that the young adults are a much more difficult group to get the message across to," Morris said.
According to the Georgia Department of Transportation, of the 17 highway fatalities in Columbia County in 2006 -- the most recent year available -- half of those who died were not wearing seat belts.
Columbia County Coroner Vernon Collins said many things can contribute to unsafe driving.
"I just notice people riding down the road, and they're so intent on conversations, they don't have a clue what's going on," he said.
Collins urges drivers to always focus and pay attention to the road.
"Wear your seat belts, slow down, stay off the cell phones and quit text messaging," he said.
Continued education, awareness and enforcement seem to be the best method to increase awareness about the importance of seat belts and safe driving, Morris said.
For Meadows, nothing can ease the pain of losing a child.
"It's just so heartbreaking," he said. "I just hope I never look in the paper again and see where another Columbia County teenager, or even an adult, has been in an accident and lost their life."
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