SEAT PLEASANT, Md. — Brenda Merlot had a 2-year-old son and big plans for their life together.
The 25-year-old mother was known as a relentless hard worker, taking as many hours as she could at her job with a demolition contractor to get ahead.
Merlot, of Lanham, Md. was one of three young adults killed when a BMW sedan they were riding in went out of control on Martin Luther King Jr. Highway in Seat Pleasant early Sunday.
None of the people who died were wearing seatbelts, according to investigators.
Just nine days before the Seat Pleasant tragedy, five children were killed in an early morning accident in Bowie.
There was no evidence restraints were in use in that crash, Maryland State Police said. All five kids were ejected from the Chrylser Pacifica they were riding in when it went off Rt. 301 on February 2.
The eight deaths in nine days put a human face on some shocking statistics.
According to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, at least 27.5 million Americans still do not regularly use seatbelts, despite laws requiring them and the overwhelming evidence that they work.
While more than 90 percent of Americans use seatbelts, 48 percent of the people who die in vehicle crashes were not restrained, according to NHTSA.
"In 2016 alone, seatbelts saved an estimated 14,668 lives and could have saved an additional 2,456 people if they had been wearing seatbelts," NHTSA reported.