The 1996 Ford Mustang flipped and came to rest on its roof along a narrow, two-lane country road south of Brooksville in Hernando County. By the time authorities got to the scene Sunday evening, two young adults were dead and another was in critical condition.
Four hours later and about 15 miles to the southeast, in eastern Pasco County, state troopers were dispatched to another one-vehicle accident. A 19-year-old woman who was riding in a pickup was taken to a local hospital, where she died of her injuries.
All of the victims had one thing in common: None of them was wearing a seat belt.
One person — the driver of the truck in the Pasco crash — walked away with minor injuries. He had his seat belt on, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.
Sgt. Larry Kraus was not surprised.
"We really try to impress upon people the importance of wearing seat belts," Kraus, a spokesman for the FHP, said Monday. "Your percentage of surviving a traffic crash is increased exponentially by wearing one."
Statistics back him up: Seat belts are thought to improve drivers' and passengers' chances of surviving a wreck by 50 percent and save about 15,000 lives each year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The administration also points out that teens buckle up far less frequently than adults do. Seat belt use among teens and young adults — ranging from 16 to 24 years old — was at 76 percent in 2006, the lowest of any age group.
So in that regard, Sunday's fatalities were not atypical.
In the first accident, the FHP said Shelton K. Rodgers, 24, of Brooksville was driving a Ford Mustang south on Culbreath Road, north of Chenoak Road, shortly after 6 p.m. when the car began hydroplaning on the wet road and Rodgers lost control.
The car hit a culvert on the east shoulder and overturned, according to an FHP report.
Rodgers and passenger Christina L. Taylor, 18, of Spring Hill were pronounced dead at the scene. Passenger Allesha C. Burton, 18, of Spring Hill was flown to St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa in critical condition.
No one in the car was wearing a seat belt.
Rodgers had a driving record filled with infractions dating back to February 2000, including speeding, failure to pay traffic fines and careless driving. Rodgers' license was suspended in 2006, but he had a valid license at the time of his death, according to the state Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.
Later that night, Chelsey Caryl Goodman of Zephyrhills was killed when the truck she was riding in swerved to miss a small animal crossing the roadway, the driver said.
According to the FHP, Justin Michael Miner, 21, of Dade City was driving a 1997 Chevrolet 2500 west on Pasco Road — west of Vineland Street and northwest of San Antonio — when the truck overturned about 10:50 p.m.
Goodman, who was not wearing a seat belt, was taken to East Pasco Regional Hospital, where she died. Miner was wearing his seat belt and sustained only minor injuries.
Miner's driving record includes a speeding ticket, citations for careless driving and following too closely, and a seat belt violation.
A message left on the cell phone of Miner's mother in Dade City was not immediately returned Monday afternoon.
Both crashes remain under investigation. It was not known whether alcohol played a role in either wreck, though investigations are ongoing, the FHP said.
Times researcher Shirl Kennedy contributed to this report. Joel Anderson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 754-6120. You can follow Joel on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jandersontimes.