Mecklenburg high schools to participate in seatbelt challenge

Mecklenburg County’s Bluestone High School and Park View High School will join with more than seventy high and middle schools across Virginia in participating in a statewide campaign to increase seat belt usage rates among teens and youth.

The four-week challenge “Save Your Tailgate, Buckle Up” will encourage youth and teens to develop a lifelong buckle up habit by reminding them that seat belts are critical safety equipment for every driver and passenger. Using the slogan, “Seat Belts Are Your Safety Equipment,” the campaign emphasizes that seat belts are critical safety equipment in a vehicle and are designed to protect and save lives. Just as football players always wear a helmet, drivers and passengers should always buckle up for safety is a central message of the campaign.

Save Your Tailgate, Buckle Up is sponsored by Youth of Virginia Speak Out About Traffic Safety (YOVASO), the Virginia State Police (VSP) and the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles Highway Safety Office. State Farm Insurance is also partnering on the program to fund materials and campaign prizes.

During the four-week challenge, students at participating schools will develop a creative event for the student body designed to influence their peers to buckle up. In addition, schools will complete pre and post seat belt checks as students arrive at school to measure the campaign’s impact on increasing seat belt use among students.

Other activities will include educational events at home football games, buckle up pledge signings, seat belt safety contests, organizing traffic safety rallies and tailgate events and other creative messaging and programming. Each participating school will be judged on the effectiveness and creativity of its seat belt educational programs, the percentage of students reached and the percentage increase in the school’s seat belt usage rate by the end of the campaign.

“This year’s campaign has a new football-themed logo and tagline but holds the same important message as years past — to always buckle up,” said Casey Taylor, YOVASO Program Development Coordinator. “We want young people to think of seat belts as their safety equipment and to never get into a vehicle without wearing one.”

According to Virginia statistics, teens between the ages of 15 and 20 are less likely to buckle up when riding in a motor vehicle than other age groups. In 2015, 60 teens were killed in crashes in Virginia. Of those 60 teens, 54 percent (28) were not wearing safety belts. An additional 1,058 teenagers were seriously injured in crashes.

“The numbers are very real,” explained Taylor. “That’s 60 families impacted by loss and 28 of those left questioning if their teen would still be alive had he/she been wearing a seat belt. With this campaign we aim to reduce those numbers and reinforce the importance of buckling up.”

The Save Your Tailgate, Buckle Up Campaign will end on Oct. 14. Campaign winners in the high school and middle school divisions will be announced on Nov. 7. Cash prizes will be awarded to the top three placing schools in both the middle and high school divisions. All prizes are made possible by a State Farm grant and other community donations.