Lifelong Ludowici resident Georgina Grippe understands the importance of wearing a seat belt. It took a few reminders, but when Grippe begrudgingly agreed to buckle up, the simple move ended up saving her life.
For many years, Grippe said, she thought nothing of hopping behind the wheel and taking off without reaching for her seat belt. Her attitude changed in 2010 when Ludowici Police Department Sgt. J.D. Campbell issued her two separate warnings. Grippe’s eagerness to avoid a third reminder from Campbell likely is why she’s here today.
“J.D. had pulled me over twice — once as I was leaving the church and the second time on Thornton Street. Both times he just asked me to please put my seat belt on and I did,” Grippe said. “Then I saw him that third time, when I was with my husband, and I said, ‘He’s not going to get me a third time,’ and I reached up and pulled my seat belt down.”
Little did she know that just three miles down the road, her life would change forever. As Grippe and her husband headed through the intersection of Elim Church Road and Mitchum Highway, a truck crashed into the passenger side of their vehicle, nearly killing her.
“The truck totaled our car, and I was hurt pretty badly. My right leg had to have surgery, and my left hand wound up being partially paralyzed, and it’s been operated on four times,” she said. “The GSP trooper and the surgeon who operated on me told me that if I hadn’t had my seat belt on, I wouldn’t be here today.”
Grippe said she’ll always appreciate Campbell’s warnings, and she expressed her gratitude by giving him a heart pin during a ceremony at her church.
“I told the church that my heart is beating today because of J.D., and now I don’t go anywhere without buckling up,” she said.
Campbell said he’s glad that his repeated requests for Grippe to buckle up made a difference, and he was thrilled to learn that she now reaches for her seat belt every time she gets into a vehicle.
According to Campbell, his department supports the Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety and its “Click-it-or-Ticket” campaign; however, he added, officers’ primary reason for encouraging seat-belt use is to keep area residents safe.
“A lot of people have this false impression that we only pull people over so we can search their car or check them out, but that’s not what it’s all about,” he said. “It’s about their safety and them getting to where they’re going in one piece.
“Wearing seat belts saves lives. You can be the safest driver out there, but you can still be involved in a wreck because you can’t control those other drivers on the road and what they’re doing,” Campbell said.
With New Year’s Eve tomorrow night, both Campbell and Grippe said they hope everyone will drive safe and act responsibly.
“I’m encouraging everyone to please wear their seat belt this weekend and every day,” Grippe said.
Campbell echoed her sentiment. “Please wear your seat belt. Unfortunately, there will be more drunks on the road this weekend than normal. Don’t be that drunk — just be responsible this weekend and every other day, too,” he said.