‘Wear your seat belts’: Family hopes deadly I-285 crash serves as a warning for others

The niece of a local man who died in a car crash on I-285 West in Sandy Springs last week hopes his death saves others. 

“Everybody out there, just wear your seat belts,” Breyanna Harris told Channel 2 Action News on Monday. “Stay safe.”

Harris’ uncle and his passenger were not wearing seat belts when their sedan slammed into the back of a tractor-trailer that had slowed in a work zone Wednesday morning. Derrien O’Neal, 33, and Sydni Hackett, 31, both of Atlanta, were killed in the crash, which blocked multiple lanes of the interstate for hours and resulted in major delays all over metro Atlanta during the morning commute.

RELATED: Victims ID’d in deadly I-285 crash

Delays were heavy on I-285 in both directions through Cobb, DeKalb and Fulton counties after two Wednesday morning crashes. JOHN SPINK / JSPINK@AJC.COM

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According to data from the National Safety Council, not wearing seat belts and other bad behaviors fueled a spike in motor vehicle deaths in Georgia and across the nation between 2014 and 2016. Among the states with the biggest rise in motor vehicle deaths, Georgia ranked fifth.

RELATED: Georgia motor vehicle deaths jump by a third in two years

MORE: Driving fatalities increase shows dangerous trend

ALSO: Safety advocates: Georgia’s distracted driving law a ‘first step’ 

"The same things that have killed us for decades are still killing us," council president Deborah Hersman told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution last year when the data was released.

Harris said her uncle leaves behind a son and two daughters. 

Derrien O'Neal, one of the victims in a car crash Wednesday, leaves behind three children, relatives said. (Credit: GoFundMe)

“Families can’t go through tragedies like we’re going through,” she told Channel 2.

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