Karen Beason and her 5-year-old son, Jack, are living proof of how wearing a seat belt is a matter of life and death.

The two were driving to a birthday party June 14 when, while traveling north on Airline Highway in Prairieville, another driver attempted to turn left on La. 929 directly in front of Beason’s car, according to the Louisiana Department of Public Safety accident report.

Beason tried to swerve around the pickup truck but could not avoid hitting it. The impact caused the truck to hit a third car, the report said.

Beason was protected by her seat belt and Jack by his five-point harness car seat.

On Sept. 30, State Police and Interim LSU Public Hospital honored Beason and Jack for surviving the wreck because they were properly restrained.

The pair received the Saved by the Belt Award at a small assembly at Galvez Primary School where Beason teaches kindergarten and Jack attends school. She is also a technician with the National Child Passenger Safety certification program and helps others ensure their child’s car seats are properly installed.

“I was hurt, but if I didn’t have my seat belt on, I’d be dead,” said Beason, whose wrist was broken during the crash.

Although the impact of the crash was on Jack’s side of the vehicle, her son was unhurt except for “harness burn,” Beason said.

“I was really scared for Jack,” Beason said. When the airbags deployed, “it’s like you’re surrounded in smoke,” she said.

State Police deemed the driver of the truck to be at fault in the crash for failing to yield, the report said.

Motor vehicle crashes are the single greatest cause of death and disability for people ages 1 to 34 and are the leading cause of injury-related deaths among people of all ages, according to State Police. Last year, more than 72,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes in the state, according to State Police records.

When a seat belt is worn properly and child safety seats used correctly, it can prevent ejection from the car and greatly reduces the chances of sustaining significant injuries, two safety experts told the group of Galvez Primary School students gathered in the library.

Trooper 1st Class Jared Sandifer and Bridget Gardner, a registered nurse and injury prevention program coordinator with Interim LSU Public Hospital, also shared how important it is for students to wear helmets while bicycling and encouraged them to tell their parents to wear their seat belts in the car.

“The seat belt holds him back in the chair like a big hug,” Gardner said, demonstrating how her arm acted as a shoulder restraint on kindergarten student Reed Averett.