I’ve been working on a special project at the paper since mid-November, and it is out today. Joining in on a project begun by reporter Jeff Sturgeon, I was tasked with explaining, in narrative form, the reasons rural Virginians buckle their seat belts less often than other drivers, and the steep cost that changes some of their minds.
The story is told through Alex Havens, a Franklin County man who, in the past few years has gone from habitually ignoring the seat belts to religiously buckling up. But he didn’t learn from the little light on his dashboard, and he didn’t learn from the signs along the road. Those things that have made buckling up routine in many communities go overlooked for many rural drivers — until the potential impact of the seat belts becomes painfully clear.