AUSTIN, Texas (KTAL/KSHV) – The Texas Department of Transportation has enlisted the help of a teen whose truck was caught in a tornado in March to demonstrate the importance of safety belts.

TxDOT’s “Click it or Ticket” campaign will feature Riley Leon, the 16-year-old who gained some viral fame when his pickup truck was tossed around by a tornado in March as he was driving home from a job interview.

Video captured by a witness went viral, fueled further by the fact that Leon survived with just a few cuts on his arms and a minor fracture in his back. Leon believes he lived to tell the tale because he was wearing a seatbelt.

“It was a couple of days after that I realized. Thankful to 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 thankful I wore it, and I’m here telling this story that a lot of people probably wouldn’t believe if I was not here.

According to TXDOT, there were 3,507 crashes in 2021 in which unbuckled people sustained serious injuries – a 14% increase from the previous year. Wearing a seat belt in the front seat of a passenger car reduced the risk of fatality by 45%. Seatbelt fatalities dropped by 60% for those in pickup trucks involved in crashes.

“Always buckle up, whether you’re going a short or long distance. Doesn’t matter if you’re the passenger or the driver, buckle up,” Leon said.

The ‘Click It Or Ticket’ campaign also features a Waco woman who was a high school student in February 2010 when an 18-wheeler rear-ended her truck. The impact sent her truck across multiple lanes on an icy I-35 and into a median, where it landed vertically, face down. She was wearing her seat belt and survived with just a few scratches.

In the years since her crash, Darcey Goodloe has graduated from Texas Tech, become a kindergarten teacher, gotten married, and is now expecting her first child (a boy!)—none of which may have happened had she not chosen to buckle up that morning.

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