Driver’S Fatal Mistake

Highway deaths prompt DPS crackdown on seat belt law

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A 26-year-old Gisela man died this weekend when he lost control of his vehicle and it rolled off Highway 87, ejecting him.

Ronnie Smith II was declared dead on scene near milepost 248, just south of the Oxbow Estates turnoff Friday night. He was not wearing a seat belt, said Sgt. Erik Axlund with the Department of Public Safety.

Axlund said in recent months a string of highway deaths have resulted from the failure of drivers and passengers to wear seat belts. In the last year, at least four people have died as a result of not wearing seat belts in DPS district 11, which includes Payson, Fountain Hills, Globe and Roosevelt.

So now Axlund has urged officers to write seat belt violations.

In the latest accident, Axlund said he can’t be sure Smith would have survived had he worn a seat belt, but the passenger compartment of the 1996 Cadillac sedan wasn’t seriously damaged, which means he might have survived.

Witnesses told officers the Cadillac was speeding down Highway 87 when the driver lost control and it rolled off the right side of the roadway. Alcohol is suspected.

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