Riley Leon spoke at a TxDOT media conference on May 16 at the Texas Capitol about how wearing a seatbelt saved him when he was caught in the March 21 tornado.
"It was a couple days after that I realized that thank God I wore my seatbelt that day because if not, the accident could have been more tragic. I probably wouldn't be here at this moment without my seatbelt. But thankfully, I wore it and I'm here," he said.
Leon was driving home along U.S. Highway 290 after an interview at Whataburger on Mach 21. On the way home his truck was caught in the path of a tornado in Elgin. The teen's red Chevy was flipped on the driver's side by the tornado before falling back on its wheels. Leon was able to drive away from the scene that day.
A storm chaser out that day caught the ordeal on camera and posted it on Twitter. The video then went viral.
Watch the video:
The department's campaign also highlights the story of Waco-native Darcey Goodloe who survived a harrowing wreck in 2010. Goodloe was a high school student at the time whose truck was rear-ended by an 18-wheeler and pushed across multiple lanes of traffic before landing vertically, face down.
Goodloe has since graduated from Texas Tech University and become a kindergarten teacher. She has also gotten married and is now expecting her first child, according to TxDOT officials.
In an advisory, authorities say Goodloe's decision to wear a seatbelt allowed her to walk away with a few scratches.
“Since its launch in 2002, the Texas Click It or Ticket campaign has saved nearly 7,000 lives,” said TxDOT Executive Director Marc Williams. “We’re proud of the work we’ve done over the decades and the countless hours put in by our law enforcement partners. But there are still far too many preventable deaths on Texas roads.
The department's campaign reminds drivers and passengers alike about the importance of wearing a seatbelt. According to TxDOT, wearing a seatbelt reduces the risk of dying in a crash by 45% for people in the front seat. For those in pickup trucks, the risk is reduced by 60%.
In 2021, there were more than 3,500 crashes in Texas where unbuckled people sustained fatal or serious injuries, TxDOT reported. That's a 14% increase from the previous year.
Texas law requires drivers and all passengers in a vehicle to wear a seat belt. Unbuckled drivers and passengers could fines and court costs of up to $200.
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