A community grieves for the loss of a teen driver as state lawmakers consider stricter seat belt laws

OSCEOLA, Mo. A community is grieving for the loss of a teenager, killed in car crash Saturday.

Cody Singleton was just 16 years-old when the car he was driving veered into oncoming tragic. He was not wearing his seat belt.

News of his death has shaken this small, close-knit community. A family friend tells us that Singleton's mom wants everyone to know how important seat belts are.

The department of transportation says our chances of not surviving a crash without them skyrocket.

Singleton's classmates say they're learning from this tragedy.

Lawmakers are considering making it a law to have them on at all times.

"He was a great guy and never failed to make anybody smile," says MacKenzie Keel.

The high school sophomore was also a junior firefighter with the Sac Osage Fire Protection District.

"Death is real and you know it happens. You don't expect it to happen to you at this age because of the fact that you're young and you think you're invincible, nothing could ever happen to you because it never has. When something like this happens I think it's just crazy," she says.

Many of Singleton's classmates are newly licensed drivers.

Keel says, "I don't know. I felt awful for grieving about him because some people lost their best friend and I was the one freaking out and feeling like my whole world was falling apart just because one kid in my class died. He was a friend of mine."

The Missouri Highway Patrol report says Singleton was trying to cross Highway 13 at V but didn't make it, crashing into another vehicle, with two people inside. They, along with Singleton's passenger
were taken to nearby hospitals.

Lawmakers in Jefferson City are considering stricter seat belt laws.

Statistics recorded between 2015 and 2017 say nearly 63 percent of all drivers and passengers killed in car crashes in Missouri were not buckled up.

"If someone where to lose control of their vehicle, having them seat belted in would help them maintain control of that vehicle," says Democratic House Representative, Keri Ingle of Lee's Summit.

The revised law would allow officers to pull a driver over just for not wearing a seat belt. This law is already in place in 68 towns and two counties, including Springfield and Branson, but not state wide.

Some state lawmakers say it's already a rule for their families.

"I make my kids wear their seat belts but not because theirs a law to do that. I think it's a safety thing. I'd like to take a hard look at that before we start trying to push this one through," says Barry Hovis, Republican Representative from Cape Girardeau.

However, not all lawmakers agree.

"Honestly, I don't think there should be a seat belt law. It's just my personal opinion. Helmet law or anything else. That's just my idea on freedom," says Andre McDaniel, Republican Representative, from Deering.

The small town of Osceola has felt a huge impact over Singleton's death.

"I thought nothing could happen to me and I'm all good," says Keel.

Law or now law, most say they will wear their seat belts.

"But after all this, it does kind of give you a gut check. Seriously, I would be disappointed in in myself if I ever thought for a second not to wear a seat belt," she says.

The community will be gathering at the city park Wednesday night to honor Singleton with a candlelight vigil.

Changes to the seat belt law are still in the planning stages.