No charges to be filed in fatal Lee Co. crash, Troopers enforce seatbelt use
June 3, 2008
Albany- No charges will be filed in a crash that killed a Lee County teen and injured two teenage friends.
Troopers say 16 year old Cole Lentz was making a u-turn on Forrester Parkway when his pickup was hit by a utility truck. Witnesses told troopers it appeared Lentz was trying to spin his tires when his pickup was broad sided near Northhampton Road Monday afternoon.
His pickup an the United Rentals truck slid down the embankment. Troopers said Tuesday, alcohol was not a factor in the crash, and none of the teens was wearing a seat belt. Lentz's passengers 15 year old Trea Smith and 16 year old Garrett Hart were injured.
Tuesday Trea Smith remains in critical condition and Garrett Hart remains in fair condition at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital. 62 year old Raymond Earl Winborne the driver of the United Rentals truck, wasn't taken by ambulance from the scene but a family member later took his to a hospital.
Traffic crashes are the leading cause of death among American teens. They're three times as likely to be involved in a fatal crash than all other drivers and the least likely group to have a seat belt on.
Georgia Troopers say they'll target teens not buckled up. It's a repetitive lesson, educators hope is registering with teen drivers, because the consequences are too often deadly.
"Everyday, if I make an announcement, I even said this in my graduation speech, it's two things, be safe on the roads and wear your seat belt," said Kevin Dowling, Lee County High School Principal.
It's left friends of the three Lee County teens in Monday's crash dazed and confused. "I can't believe it happened, I don't know," said Zak Russell, a friend.
State Troopers say it's a tough reminder for teens to buckle up every time you get into a vehicle. Of the 16 to 20 year olds killed in motor vehicle crashes annually, 58 percent weren't wearing seat belts.
"The chances of you surviving a crash with your seat belt on are very high. Eighty-five to 90 percent of crashes we investigate if there were seat belts worn the victim or the person in the accident itself did survive," said GSP-Albany Senior Trooper Darryl Benton.
Troopers aren't sure if a seat belt would have saved Cole Lentz's life, the driver's side of his pickup took a direct hit from utility truck, but more often than not, seat belts save lives.
"The more times you repeat something, the more times you say something to them. Sometimes I go out in the parking lot and stop a car and say, put your seat belt on, and they're of course oh yeah, sorry and the kids know that's something I'm going to tell them everyday," said Benton.
"It makes you want to be more careful, be more defensive as a driver," said Russell.
As teens are traveling more this summer, Troopers plan to be on the roads with them, enforcing seat belt laws. The Click it or Ticket seat belt enforcement campaign is going on right now in Georgia.