DANVILLE - Last November, Bonnie Brown was the passenger in a car driven by her husband along Interstate 80.
Near the Danville roadside rest area, a deer hit the back of the car. They were traveling at 65 mph at the time and the impact caused the car to spin and land on its roof.
Brown believes she and her husband still are alive because they were wearing their seat belts.
Brown, a maintenance secretary for the state Department of Transportation District 3-0, shared her story at the rest area near where the crash occurred on Tuesday morning as part of PennDOT's seat belt campaign in the northcentral region.
Because they both wore their seat belts, they escaped the accident with minor injuries.
"Our seat belts held us in place and saved our lives," she said. "Or at least, (from) very serious injuries."
Last year in the state, 55 percent of deaths in vehicle equipped with seat belts crashes resulted from people not wearing seat belts. In northcentral Pennsylvania, 48 percent of fatal crashes were people who chose not to wear them, PennDOT spokesman Rick Mason said.
Those numbers are increasing. In the first six months this year, 65 percent of fatal crashes in northcentral Pennsylvania were from people who did not wear seat belts, he said.
"It's more than tragic," Mason said. "It's heart wrenching."
Brown's story will be featured on posters with text that reads "Just buckle up. Seat belts save lives. I'm living proof!"
The posters will hang, among other places, in senior centers.
Mason said he hopes that since Brown is a mature driver, it will influence other mature drivers to want to buckle up.
"(Older drivers are) part of the problem," Mason said. "Seniors, youth and every age in between. We want to help everybody with this campaign."
Not wearing seat belts can affect more than just the people in the crashes.
"If they don't think of themselves, think of their loved ones," Brown said.
While the crash took maybe 30 seconds, it felt a lot longer to her, giving her time to consider what would happen to her.
" 'Will I see my kids again?' " Brown said. "Is this the end of my life?"
Her husband saw what would happen before it did, which allowed him to say "deer" to her, but when the car finally stopped, he did not say anything and she was worried that something had happened to him. Because they had their seat belts, they both were fine.
"We encourage everyone, every time, to buckle up," Mason said. "In the blink of an eye, you can be in a crash."