A recent reminder about the importance of buckling up appears to have been taken to heart by many Powell High School students and staff. Just one week after a school-wide assembly about the importance of seat belts and safe driving, a clandestine survey found the percentage of drivers buckling up near the high school had jumped by 25 points.
Injury Prevention Resources surveyed 100 drivers several days before an Aug. 31 assembly — put on in conjunction with the Wyoming Highway Patrol and the Park County Sheriff’s Office — and then again a week later.
Overall, the number of drivers found buckling up rose from 64 to 89 percent, Injury Prevention Resources said in a news release.
The group set up the surveys as a “Battle of the Belts” competition between Powell and Cody. PHS drivers trumped their Cody counterparts in both surveys — with CHS’ seat belt rate starting at 57 percent and rising to 81 percent.
Tom Cunningham, a safety education coordinator with Injury Prevention Resources, said he’ll be doing another survey in a few months to see if the safety message stuck. Cunningham said he usually finds that seat belt usage has declined, but is still 5 to 8 percent higher than it was before the assemblies.
“My goal is for long-term change in seat belt usage (for the positive) and planting the seed for the community to embrace the issue of seat belts and proper use,” Cunningham said.
He said this push for buckling up was timed to prepare young drivers and their passengers for the coming fall and winter months, when Wyoming’s road conditions can quickly become dangerous.
Cunningham’s group says motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for people between the ages of 5 and 35.
“There is no bigger problem than roadway safety facing our community,” Injury Prevention Resources Executive Director Noel Cooper said in a statement. “The good news is that this is something we can turn around with dedication from law enforcement, parents, teens and kids to help assure we are protecting ourselves, our passengers and other drivers on the road.”
Beyond using a seat belt, Cunningham urged drivers to put down their phones, avoid drinking or drugs that could affect their driving and to plan for emergencies by traveling with things like blankets, shovels, food and water and by letting family and friends know where they’re heading.