Crash survivor encourages others to buckle up

Only 67 percent of Missouri teens wear their seat belt, according to Chad Burton wasn't one of them on December 29, 1992.

In Missouri, one person is killed in a traffic crash every 11.1 hours.

By the end of March, 115 people lost their lives on roadways in the Show-Me state this year.

According to, 61 percent of those killed were unbuckled.

Using a seat belt lowers your chances of being killed or seriously injured in a crash by 45-50 percent.

Teens often think they are invincible, that nothing bad can or will happen to them, especially when it comes to driving. O

nly 67 percent of Missouri teens wear their seat belt, according to

Chad Burton wasn't one of them on December 29, 1992.

"You definitely don't want your parents changing your diaper and your stuff when you are 17, 18,â?? Burton, a ThinkFirst Missouri speaker, said. â??They shouldn't have to help give you a bath and stuff."

It was just four days after Christmas 20 years ago when Burton was driving on Rock Quarry Road in Columbia a little after midnight.

"I was in a coma for five and a half weeks, 39 days," Burton said.

The injury report said the then-17-year-old high school sophomore wrestler, who wasn't wearing a seat-belt, fell asleep while driving and hit another driver who had been drinking.

"I lost a lot of my memory,â?? Burton said. â??Physically, I lost one side of my body. I can't move the left side of my body. I can do everything with one hand, which is pretty challenging but it's rewarding to just be able to do that because I work with some people who are paralyzed from the neck down and can't even eat on their own."

It wasn't just Burton who was affected by the crash; his parents were also hit hard.

"We had to move to Columbia into a trailer so I could just be closer to the hospital at the time," Burton said.

He went to physical therapy several times a week and returned to Rock Bridge High School.

He was relentless in his recovery effort.

"They would tell me to try and do 20 push-ups and I would try to do 100 or 50-100 because I knew if I could do more than that, I would recover twice as fast," Burton said.

Eventually he graduated and later passed a special test for a driver's license in Kansas City.

He's taken his struggles and turned them into teaching lessons as a Voice for Injury Prevention speaker for ThinkFirst Missouri. Burton speaks to students, sharing his story in the hope they won't repeat it.

He shows them how he can tie his shoes with just one hand, how he can type with just five fingers and he tells the students about the dangers on the roads.

"Carl Edwards may be the best driver in the world, but you can't say everyone that's on the same road as you coming at your is the best driver in the world," Burton said. â??The single most important thing I think is to make it a life commitment to wear your seat-belt every time you get into a car."

He said as drivers, we take our fate into our own hands each time we get behind the wheel.

"Worry about your own body because if you don't worry about your safety, who's going to? It's not going to be the guy coming at your that's drinking and driving, or texting and driving or talking on his phone and driving," Burton said.

We asked Burton if he could go back in time, would he change what happened.

After some thought he said he would have worn a seat belt that night, but at the same time said he wouldn't give up the experiences he's had as a result, the incredible people he's met along the way or the countless teen lives he's impacted through ThinkFirst Missouri.