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Remembering Kailee Mills and the importance of seat belt usage

Kailee Mills Foundation reminds in saving lives one seat at a time
Children buckled up
Posted at 5:51 PM, May 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-03 19:20:43-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Drivers and passengers are being reminded to buckle up in honor of National Seat Belt Safety Awareness Month.

On Monday, the Texas Department of Public Safety, along with several other agencies including the Kailee Mills Foundation, teamed up for a seat belt safety event.

The Kailee Mills Foundation was founded in 2017, in honor of 16-year-old Kailee Mills.

Mills was riding in the backseat of a car with three friends during the Halloween weekend when she unbuckled to slide over and take a photo with them.

That's when the driver veered off the road, causing the car to flip. Kailee was ejected from the vehicle and killed on impact.

Her friends, who remained buckled in the car, had no injuries.

"We knew that had she been wearing her seat belt in those moments, she would still be here today," said Kailee Mills Foundation executive director Briana McCulloch.

Following that tragic crash, McCulloch said her family began researching statistics and realized how big of an issue seat belt safety was and how it wasn't talked about enough.

The foundation's mission is to speak with students and the community, using Kailee's story as an example of why motorists should always stay buckled up.

"There's nothing that could be more important than your life," McCulloch said.

Kailee Mills would have turned 20 this month.

"Losing somebody like Kailee has changed so many peoples lives, " McCulloch said. "It's devastating. If we can save one family from experiencing the amount of grief that our family has experienced, then everything we're doing is worth it."

Sam Mills, a survivor of a crash, also attended Monday's event.

Mills said one night he was working late and was rushing to get home when he crashed his car.

Mills was not wearing a seat belt and was ejected from his car.

He was later taken to the hospital and remained in a coma.

He was finally released from the hospital in January.

Mills told KRIS 6 News he's thankful to be alive.

"Seat belt safety is very important," Mills said. "It's because of my crash I wasn't wearing my seat belt."

His mother, Carrie Mills, said she believes there's a much bigger issue to address.

"I think it's all distractions," Mills said. "Put your phone away. Stop speeding. It's not a game because you're actually putting everyone else in danger around you, not just yourself."

Corpus Christi Mayor Paulette Guajardo also attended Monday's event, touched by Kailee's story.

"We can never say we've had enough awareness or education about seat belts," Guajardo said. "We have to remember that even a few seconds is not acceptable because you can lose a life over that."

Guajardo told KRIS 6 News at the end of the day, it's just about educating and keeping everyone safe, especially children.

"They take the seat belts off for a minute or don't put it on right away. They think that until they get on a freeway," Guajardo said. "That's when you have to wear the seat belt and it's not. Kailee Mills' story is proof of that. She was two blocks away from her home in a residential area when her tragedy happened."

Monday's event served as the launch for a statewide seat belt safety awareness campaign, which will be displayed on digital billboards during the month of May.

To learn more about the Kailee Mills Foundation, click here.