Two Idaho high schools score big in national seat belt challenge

When challenged to increase seat belt use, teenagers from across the U.S. set out to improve their odds of surviving a traffic crash. Two Idaho high schools came away with top honors and cash prizes for their efforts to improve seat belt use in their schools, scoring wins in two of three competition categories.

Nampa High School, in Nampa, Idaho, won for best overall seat belt education campaign and Shelley High School, in Shelley, Idaho, won for greatest improvement in seat belt usage. Highest seat belt use honors were won by Heritage High School in Newport News, Virginia. In addition to national recognition, each school was awarded $1,500.

"I am thrilled that Nampa and Shelley high schools participated in the Seat Belts Save Challenge, and won," said Sherry Jenkins, with Idaho Transportation Department's Office of Highway Safety. "Both schools were highly motivated to educate their peers and local communities to buckle up."

"In 2014, eight young drivers were killed in Idaho," Jenkins explained. "Only two of the drivers were wearing seat belts. Two teenage passengers who were also not wearing seat belts were killed in crashes."

The "Seat Belts Save Challenge" was a nationwide competition organized by the National Organizations for Youth Safety (NOYS) with support from the National Roadway Safety Foundation (NRSF), and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The challenge was initiated to increase seat belt use among young people nationwide who are at particular risk from death or injury in traffic crashes because of their low belt-usage rate. Last year, more than one-half of teenage drivers killed in crashes and more than 60 percent of teenage passengers killed were not wearing seat belts.

"We love that more students at schools across the country are wearing their seat belts and are encouraging others to buckle up too," said Dr. Mark Rosekind, administrator, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. "Seat belts save lives. Getting into the good habit of buckling up at a young age is a smart start."

NOYS and its partners invited U.S. high schools to develop a local campaign to increase seat belt usage. The Seat Belts Save Challenge was documented by an unannounced check before the campaign, followed by another check after the school's education and awareness campaign.

Best overall campaign winner Nampa High School, with approximately 1,500 students, teamed up with local police and fire departments, the Idaho Transportation Department and several community groups to spread the message "Buckle Up Everytime, Everywhere."

Backed by extensive use of social media, the campaign launched with an event featuring a giant pledge poster and a buckle-up race using a police cruiser. A two-month education campaign included visits by students to area elementary schools, talking to kids and parents about seat belts and the importance of having children under 13 riding only in the back seat.

Nampa High School went from a non-usage rate of 26 percent to less than one percent at the end of the campaign.

Shelley High School, with 600 students, won national recognition for greatest improvement in seat belt use, upping their rate by 11 percent.

"We are pleased to see that the Seat Belts Save Challenge is making a difference," said Anita Boles, CEO of NOYS. "We continue to be impressed by the commitment and creativity of our youth as they get out the important message that seat belts save lives."

A new Seat Belts Save Challenge is currently in progress.

Published 01-08-16