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Our view: Bayfield traffic tragedy offers chilling reminder

Four people, including three children, were ejected from a vehicle Monday, July 23, 2012, after the Chevy Blazer they were riding in left Wisconsin Highway 13 and rolled just north of Washburn, the Bayfield County Sheriff's Office reported. A 2-year-old from Bayfield was killed. The girl and the other passengers in the crash were not using seat belts or child restraints, according to the Wisconsin State Patrol. (Photo by Bayfield County Sheriff's Department)

Among a host of other run-ins with law enforcement and traffic troubles over the past five years or so, Chelsea Cadotte of Bayfield was cited at least twice for failing to put her young children in their safety seats while driving. In the most recent incident, she pleaded guilty by "no contest." That was just about two months ago. She has been fined a total of $340 for repeat car-seat and sea-belt oversight.

And while that may seem like ample warning -- and at least 340 good reasons to remember to buckle up and to always make sure her children are safely buckled -- a week ago today brought tragedy. No one was restrained when the Chevy Blazer that Cadotte was driving careened off Wisconsin Highway 13, rolled through a ditch and flipped over just north of Washburn. The 23-year-old's four passengers, including her three young children, all were ejected from the vehicle. Her 2-year-old daughter, Mariah Gordon, was thrown out and killed. Her 4-year-old daughter, Myley Gordon, was left in the tall grass among the wreckage and in critical condition. Her 6-year-old child, Carter Gordon, and 15-year-old sister, Erica Gonzales, also suffered critical injuries.

An empty car seat was found in the weeds amid the carnage.

And Cadotte, she was found inside the vehicle -- the only one to remain inside the vehicle -- with less severe injuries. A day later she was listed in fair condition.

With the Bayfield County district attorney holding off on charges late last week -- he was awaiting reports, including toxicology tests -- the crash can serve as a reminder for the rest of us. Buckle up. Always. No matter how fast or how far we expect to be traveling. Kids, too -- kids, especially. It's on grown-ups to make sure they're safely secured.

And not only in your own vehicle, grown-ups. If you see someone, young or old, not using their seat belt anywhere, speak up. A serious safety concern like that has to be your business.

There are good reasons why car dealers, fire stations and others hold car-seat clinics. There are as many good reasons why state patrols and other law-enforcement launch click-it-or-ticket campaigns.

Tragedies like the one a week ago today in Bayfield don't have to happen. As long as we heed the warnings and the many good reasons to buckle up and to always make sure others in our vehicle -- especially little others -- are buckled, too. Lives depend on it.