The Seatbelts Are For Everyone program at St. John-Hudson High School is designed to get students and teachers to buckle up for safety.

The success of a program at St. John-Hudson High School is measured in lives saved and injuries reduced.

Seatbelts Are For Everyone is a program to increase the use of seatbelts and at the same time, make driving safer, said Susan Patterson, SAFE coordinator at the high school.

Team members are Cash McVey, Bree Meyer, Melissa Williamson, Shayla Garcia, Trey Fisher, Tanner Halling and Erin Crissman.

The first survey taken at the beginning of the year revealed 72 percent of drivers and passengers wore seatbelts. The final survey, completed this month, revealed 85 percent of drivers and passengers were wearing seatbelts, Patterson said.

This marks continued improvement in the number of drivers and passengers buckling up. When SAFE started in 2013, the first baseline was 62 percent of drivers and passengers wearing seatbelts.

"We have increased seatbelt usage," Patterson said.

Kansas Highway Patrol Trooper Jeff Schawe initiated the program. He visited with Patterson and other teachers about the program. Sheriff and police officers report to him about infractions. He makes up the spread sheet and is the backbone of the project.

When a team member reports that a student is pulled over for a seatbelt violation, Patterson calls Schawe to verify the infraction.

This is a student led program. To check on seatbelt usage, the team of seven students gathers from 7:15 a.m. to 8 a.m. at four locations around the school. They are unannounced and usually conduct their surveys twice a week. Each team member wears a bright green vest and has a check list with a survey and they check to see if drivers and passengers are wearing seatbelts. Patterson also has teachers signed up to participate. One morning, the school principal got pulled over for not wearing a seatbelt. He went to Patterson and admitted, red faced, that he got caught.

Patterson has taken her seatbelt battle all the way to Topeka. Three years ago, a female student testified in front of the Kansas House and Senate. She had been in a serious accident and should have been killed. Their goal was to get a bigger fine for not wearing a seatbelt.

To encourage students to participate in the program, peers share personal stories about accidents. A couple of boys had an accident a couple of years ago and they admitted with without seatbelts, they could have been injured or worse. They were on their way home from Great Bend and fell asleep. The truck rolled but they were restrained and were not thrown out. They had some cuts and bruises but they walked away.

For some students, its hard to talk about their experiences but they do make an impact on the other students.

Miss Kansas Krystian Fish has made an appearance and even the crash test dummies Vince and Larry came out and handed out safety brochures and pins and pencils. Patterson said she wants Miss Kansas to come again in May because her platform is seatbelt usage.

Since the program started, there have no deaths among students educated in seatbelt usage. The program also focuses on texting while driving and distracted driving.

“It’s not just about seat- belts for everyone,” Patter- son said.

As an incentive to get involved with the program,

students sign a six month pledge starting in November. That includes the student members of the safety team who also have to be compliant. If they are not compliant twice, they will be removed from the team.

“We want to be an example,” Patterson said.

Students are not the only concern for the program. Patterson said it makes her heart skip a beat when she sees a parent or grandparent with a child on their lap and not restrained. She has actually stopped a parent one day and told them she would appreciate if they would put they would seatbelt their child.

If students are compliant they are eligible for a drawing every month and if they are compliant for six months, they are eligible for a grand drawing. Community and county sponsors provide the prizes. So far, students have received over $1,000 worth of prizes.

"It’s a big deal to win prizes at the end of the month,” Patterson said.

Funding for the program comes from local sponsors that have provided $1,200 and from the Kansas Traffic Safety Resource Office in Topeka. They reimburse the school for things like food, travel expenses and other items. They get posters from the state.

Patterson said the group wants to recognize their efforts and are working on signs announcing the success of the program.

“We’re going to have signs made,” Patterson said.

Besides being the SAFE coordinator, she teaches Family and Consumer Science and sponsors Future Career and Community Leaders of America.

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