Two women die in Lee wreck - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Two women die in Lee wreck

December 4, 2006

Lee County -- A distracted driver caused a deadly crash this morning that killed his mother and the driver of another car.   Edward Wallace's Buick Regal crossed the center line on Highway 19 south and hit a Nissan Altima head on around 7:45.    

The driver of the Altima, 27-year old April Summerlin, was killed. 59-year old Joann Wallace was also killed. Troopers say there are conflicting reports about just what was going on inside the Wallace's car, but other motorists could tell something was wrong.

Witness Kathryn Murchison says she noticed the Wallaces' car swerving, and it almost hit her.   "The car was so close to my car when I swerved over, had I not swerved, they literally would have hit me, and I looked into my rearview mirror and my side mirror and I could see their faces, and they were panicked."  

April Summerlin and her five-year old daughter were headed north on 19 when the Wallaces slammed into them. Summerlin was killed instantly on her 27th birthday. Her daughter Ansley was in a child seat in the backseat and survived. She is in fair condition at Phoebe.

Joann Wallace was dead at the scene. Her son, who caused the wreck, Edward Wallace was treated and released from Phoebe. His young niece in the backseat of his car survived, too.  

One of the women killed was not wearing a seat belt. In fact, no one in the Wallace family's Buick was buckled up. As a result, Joann Wallace was thrown into the windshield, and died.

This is the second deadly crash in Lee County in one week in which a passenger who wasn't buckled up was killed in a crash. And these wrecks have law enforcement calling for drivers and passengers to buckle up.

Research has shown that when a seat belt is used properly, the risk of fatal injury to a front seat passengers is reduced by 45 percent, yet nearly one in five Americans, that's about 18 percent, still don't buckle up regularly. It's a number law enforcement says needs to change.

The GSP Specialized Collision Reconstruction Team will analyze every part of this crash to find out what happened. 52:41 Jamie1, "They'll take a lot of photography, they'll actually do a forensics survey of the scene to try and determine speeds and angles, then they'll also interview all of the witnesses that they can locate and survivors of the crash." says GSP Safety Education Unit Sgt. Jamie Sullivan.

They already know why the front seat passenger in the Buick Regal died, her head crashed through the windshield because she wasn't wearing a seat belt. They say a seat belt may have saved her life.  "It spreads crash forces across a wider part of the body, rather than concentrating them when a driver comes in contact with a steering wheel or with a windshield," said Michele DeMott of Albany Safe Communities.

Last Thursday, 16-year old Guy Tanner was thrown from a pickup and killed when it crashed and rolled on Lovers' Lane Road. Tanner wasn't buckled up.

In the last two years, Lee County emergency responders have handled 31 fatal accidents, more than half of those were people who weren't wearing seat belts. "You have so many areas that are congested, particularly in the morning with drivers coming into Dougherty County and moving around taking children to school, so the more vehicles your put into proximity with each other, the odds are those vehicle are going to come into conflict certainly," said DeMott.

Kids need to be restrained, too. Five year old Ansley Summerlin likely survived the crash because her mother had her properly restrained in the back seat. Under Georgia law, all kids under six must be in properly installed child safety seats.

Safety experts say it takes just seconds to buckle up, seconds that well out weight the risk of not buckling up.  "Each and every time, each and every trip it's simply not worth it," said DeMott.   

Although seat belt use increased to a record 82 percent nationally in 2005 too many Americans still choose not to regularly wear their seat belts. In Lee County, seat belt use is around 80 percent, in Dougherty County's it's around 90 percent according to survey's done twice a year.  

Not buckling up can also be costly, traffic collisions cost Georgians an average of more than $5.2 Billion annually in the form of higher insurance premiums, medical costs and property damage.

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