More than a dozen people have died in fatal accidents on Columbus County roads in the past month, the majority of whom weren’t yet out of their 20’s.
“I keep thinking he’s going to come through that door, but I know he’s not,” said Gaynelle Freeman.
Gaynelle and Julius Freeman lost their 22-year-old son Jeremy in a car accident last month.
Jeremy was driving on Blacksmith Road near Bolton with two passengers. His car collided with an ATV. Jeremy, his two friends, and the ATV driver were all killed.
That accident was just one in a string of fatal Columbus County car crashes. In the past month, thirteen people died in seven accidents beginning county roads since mid-April.
“This is a lot. This is higher than normal for sure,” said Brian Ezzell of Highway Patrol.
Trooper Ezzell said speed has played a factor in many of the accidents and that fatalities could have been avoided. “Several of the occupants out of the thirteen would have probably been alive today if they had their seat belt on.”
Highway Patrol officers are stepping up efforts to make sure drivers and passengers buckle up.
In the month of April, troopers wrote 479 seat belt tickets in Columbus and Bladen counties compared to 286 this time last year, about a 70 percent increase.
Columbus county sheriff’s deputies are cracking down as well.
“We’re going to step up in Columbus County and make our citizens and our young people more aware that seat belt safety and driving while impaired will cost you your life,” said Sheriff Chris Batten.
But law enforcement can’t do it alone. While the Freeman’s mourn the loss of a son, they also make a tearful plea to others on the road. “I just hope and pray that these youngins, the rest of the them, the need to obey the law.”
In all of last year, Highway Patrol for Columbus and Bladen counties wrote 975 seatbelt tickets.
So far this year, troopers have already cited more than 1,300 drivers for failing to buckle up.