EAST MANATEE -- Gena Rogers and Debbie Wagner know that if their sons had been buckled into their seats Christmas night, both might still be alive.
For that reason they have embraced a campaign to encourage teens to buckle their seat belts, no matter how short the drive.
Brett Wagner, nicknamed Bswag, and his best friend, Josh Rogers, nicknamed Bubba, died of their injuries when another driver blew through a stop sign at Rye Road and State Road 64 and crashed into the side of their pickup truck.
We were trying to find answers as to why all this has taken place. We looked at the vehicle and saw they could have survived, no question, if they had been wearing their seat belts, Gena Rogers said.
Brett Wagners cousin, former University of Florida tackle Terron Sanders, was wearing a seat belt and suffered only minor injuries in the crash.
Josh Rogers and Brett Wagner, 18-year-old Lakewood Ranch High School students, were thrown from the pickup truck by the force of the collision.
The moms have developed a Facebook page called B.U.B.B.A. -- Buckle Up 4 BSwag and Bubba Association -- and, in association with CreatingARippleEffect.com, have been supporting the distribution of stickers reminding students to buckle up.
The stickers were first distributed at Hunsadsers Rockin Ranch Concert in February, and are available at the Lakewood Ranch Ace Hardware-Crowder Bros., the Lakewood Ranch Beef OBradys and Joyland Feed Company in Bradenton.
Lakewood Ranch High School students can also get the stickers at their school.
In addition, a banner has been put up outside Lakewood Ranch High School to remind students to buckle up as they exit the parking lot.
To date, the Facebook page has already received more than 800 likes and a number of donations.
They have also received requests for buckle-up sticker reminders from as far away as California, Minnesota and New England.
The stickers are similar to what might be placed on a car windshield as a reminder of when the next oil change is due, said Kelly Keenan of CreatingARippleEffect.com.
If drivers can remember to buckle up for 21 days, the hope is that it becomes a habit, Keenan said.
The original idea for the buckle-up campaign came from Jaime DiDomenico, president of N&M Cool Today, which is donating $1 for every like on the Facebook page for the seat belt campaign until May 1.
Debbie Wagner said she hopes the campaign spares other parents the grief that she experienced.
It may seem cool to some young drivers to slide behind the wheel of a vehicle without buckling up, Debbie Wagner said, but this has goes beyond cool. Its about using your brain.
Josh and Bretts death caused a huge ripple throughout the community.
My lawn was filled with trucks. I have 10 acres and students were parking on State Road 64, sitting on their tailgates, Wagner said after news of the accident spread.
Lets just do whats right, Wagner said. Do you want to see your parents where I am?
The seat belt campaign is a way to deal with their grief and their anger over what happened.
They werent speeding or doing anything wrong. Just out of nowhere they were hit, Rogers said.
We have to look beyond that and focus on something else. Even though they arent here they can still be good role models, Rogers said.
James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee editor, can be contacted at 941-745-7021 or tweeted @jajones1