Natalie's bill

The following was written by Beatriz Fuentes, the Bilingual Community Outreach Coordinator for the Brain Injury Association of Massachusetts,  founder of Friends of Natalie and a member of the BEST Coalition.

Four years ago I lost my 21- year-old daughter Natalie in a car crash. She and her boyfriend left my house to visit a friend who lived just a few miles down the road. I watched from my porch as she jumped into the passenger seat and told me they’d be back in an hour or two. Unfortunately Natalie was wrong and I never saw her smiling face again.

Natalie

Just minutes after leaving, the car Natalie was riding in was involved in an accident and she was tossed clear of the vehicle. She survived the original impact of the crash, but was thrown from the car with such force that she sustained massive, fatal brain injuries. Had she been wearing her seatbelt she never would have been ejected from the car so violently. Had she been wearing her seatbelt, my little girl would still be with us.

As a parent, my worst nightmare had come true; I lost a child. To this day my heart still breaks when I think about Natalie, but I know that if I am to properly honor her memory, I can’t wallow in grief. With a mixture of love and sadness driving me, I’ve devoted myself to seatbelt advocacy so other parents might avoid the pain I’ve known. In my efforts I’ve joined forces with the Brain Injury Association of Massachusetts to help gather support for a primary seat belt law in Massachusetts. With their help I’ve started the Friends of Natalie, a grassroots, bilingual seatbelt campaign to push for stricter seatbelt laws and lend a human face to Massachusetts’ frightening seatbelt statistics.

Betriz and Natalie

Recent estimates show Massachusetts has one of the lowest percentages of seat belt use in the whole country, costing us 135 lives a year and $6.3 billion in healthcare costs, insurance claims and lost wages. But stricter laws and more consistent enforcement could change that. The experts suggest that by adopting a primary seatbelt law Massachusetts could save 18 lives, reduce serious injury cases by 600 and save the state over $168 million every year.

Words alone cannot describe how much I miss my daughter, but her loss has become a call to action for many, and I believe that together all of these voices can make a difference.

Last year, Massachusetts State Senator Patricia Jehlen re-named the Massachusetts primary seatbelt bill “Natalie’s Bill” after my daughter. It’s a special honor and empowers me to push for change, even in the face of criticism. Stricter laws and violation fines aren’t always popular with voters, but they are proven to increase compliance with state regulation. When those laws can help protect our children, as would be the case with Natalie’s law, I hope people will keep an open mind; there are so many lives at stake.

Please join me in reaching out to your Senator and Representative at the Massachusetts State House. (You can find their State House contact information by visiting http://www.malegislature.gov/People/FindMyLegislator.) Let our elected officials know how important Natalie’s Law is and how you’d like them to join us in making the world a safer place for all our children.

From my family to yours, please always remember to buckle up, because parents who use seatbelts have kids who use seatbelts. Or, as we say in Spanish, AOCHABRATE! (Choose to click.) It’s a simple message and simple action, but one that can make a world of difference.

For more information on seatbelt safety and supporting a primary seatbelt law in Massachusetts please visit the following sites:

Support primary seatbelt laws on Facebook

Primary seatbelt law FAQ

Brain Injury Association of Massachusetts

How to find your State Senator or State Representative

Friends of Natalie

  • Elizacard07

    While I am very sorry for the loss of this lovely woman I cannot support your law and will fight tooth and nail against it. You see both my husband and I are survivors in two separate vehicle accidents where had we been wearing our seatbelts we would be DEAD. I usually wear my seatbelt but that day for some reason I decided against it, lucky for me. Had I not been thrown into the passenger seat I wouldn’t be here because the drivers seat was disentigrated. My husbands situation was very similar and there are many more of us out there across the country. And no this is not speculation on our part. We were told how lucky we were by the rescue personel how lucky we were to have NOT had our seat belts on. I do believe seatbelts save lives most of the time but what about those times when it does do more harm than good. This is never talked about and yet it happens all over the country every day. Should someone die because they followed the law or should reasonable law abiding adults be able to make this decision themselves.

  • Mellonp

    Seatbelt saved my life a week ago I Slid off the highway and rolled over.i ended up hanging by my seatbelt but I walked away from that crash. alive So please buckle up .

  • KOZ

    Stay out of my life. I don’t like seatbelt, I don’t like helmets.; it is a personal thing.
    Twenty year ago only 2 states did not have helmets law; now there are 38 states that don’t.
    Just because it is a law does not mean it will be abidded by, will Mass do the same as Ct seat up check points on the highway to impeed my travel.
    For every life saved there was one taken, they just don’t tell you that on the news. And for every I walked away accident with a seatbelt I can show you one that did not have a seatbelt.