WALLACE — Wallace High School (WHS) has been awarded the title of the school with the largest increase in seat belt use.
This distinction was given after students and staff made waves last October when they accepted the National Organizations for Youth Safety (NOYS) Seat Belts Save Challenge.
NOYS explains that the challenge, sponsored by the National Road Safety Foundation (NRSF), is a “campaign designed to educate teen drivers about the dangers of riding in a car without wearing a seat belt, and increase the number of teens who regularly wear a seatbelt while driving or riding in a car.”
For just over two weeks, WHS freshman class leadership spearheaded an awareness campaign throughout the school by running social media accounts, doing morning announcements, providing monetary incentives, and holding an assembly that stressed the importance of seat belts.
WHS teachers Tina Brackebusch and Bruce Bailey documented student seat belt use over the course of the challenge and the results were staggering.
Before the challenge, the duo found that only 20 percent of student drivers were buckling up when they arrived and left school. By the end of the two weeks, their final survey showed that of 45 student drivers and passengers leaving WHS, only 10 were not buckled in.
The increase in seat belt use was not only a great statistic, but it was also put into practice when WHS students Austin McKinnon and Isaiah Webb crashed into a I-90 guardrail on the last day of the challenge. Thanks to the deployment of their airbags and the use of their seat belts, the two teenagers (who normally didn’t wear their seat belts before the challenge) walked away with only cuts and bruises.
Tiffany Aurora, director of Youth Engagement & Workforce Development at NOYS, praised Brackebusch and WHS for their hard work and healthy choices.
“A heartfelt congratulations from all of us here at NOYS,” she said to Brackebusch. “You and your students did an incredible job promoting seat belt use among the student body at your school. NOYS and all of our partners are eternally grateful for leaders like you who take these safety campaigns and make them a reality.”
As a seat belt challenge winner, WHS will receive a $1,500 prize for their efforts.
Also, Brackebusch and the students who were leaders in the campaign (Connor Denson, Carter Bailey, Will Farkas and Hayden Hogamier) will get an all-expenses-paid trip to the NOYS Interactive Traffic Safety Lab in Washington, D.C., this fall. The lab will take place at the Rosecroft Raceway in Maryland, just a few miles outside of D.C.
Brackebusch was incredibly excited to hear the news and praised the student leaders.
“I am very proud of the students who developed the activities for Wallace Jr/Sr High School,” she said. “This was a great public service project which directly affects the safety our students and we are so excited to be able to spend some time representing our community in the nation’s capitol.”
In addition to winning the NOYS challenge, Wallace’s seat belt efforts earned them a $1,000 second place prize in the ITD Office of Highway Safety Occupant Protection Program.
With the tremendous success of this campaign, Brackebusch already has plans for WHS to participate in the challenge next year.
NOYS and NHTSA report that motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teenagers in the U.S. In 2014 alone, 1,717 young drivers died and an estimated 170,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes. Data also shows that, compared to other age groups, teens have a lower rate of seat belt use.
For young drivers who died in crashes, only 54 percent were restrained at the time of the crash. Of teens that died in passenger vehicle crashes, over half (56 percent) were not wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash.
Research shows that seat belts reduce serious crash-related injuries and deaths by about half.