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KCR-1 Students Face “Battle of the Belt” Challenge Head On
By Crystal Howerton and Cyndy Bliem-Sharp
During the months of October and November, Knox County R-1 students participated in a statewide challenge called “Battle of the Belt” which was developed to reduce the number of motor vehicle related injuries and fatalities among Missouri high school students by increasing their seat belt use.
Battle of the Belt was introduced as a seat belt competition between Missouri high schools. It was brought to Missouri by the Missouri Emergency Nurses Association and St. Johns Hospital. In 2006, the Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety, in conjunction with American Family Insurance, began sponsoring the program.
Schools compete to increase seat belt use among students, thereby saving lives. The components available to students were: 1) Surprise seat belt surveys along with an educational campaign to increase seat belt use, during which an observational safety belt survey would be conducted before and after the educational blitz to determine the change in seat belt use among the students 2) Creation of a 30-second video public service announcement promoting seat belt use among young drivers.
On October 8th, Knox County High School kicked off the Battle of the Belt challenge with an unannounced seat belt check. Results from the survey indicated 55% of Knox County High School drivers and their passengers buckled up. That same day, Sergeant Brent Bernhardt of the Missouri State Highway Patrol led an assembly for students in grades 9-12 about the results of not buckling up.
“His focus was on safe driving, including distractions, drinking and driving and seat belt use,” said Cyndy Bliem-Sharp. “His no-holds-barred slide presentation was both graphic and to the point. Students sat quietly as they watched the slide show full of pictures of vehicles involved in accidents, injuries as a result of those accidents and testimonials from those who survived and friends/family of those who did not,” added Bliem-Sharp.
A flyer contest was initiated among the student body on October 15th. Students in LA classes and the Connections classes completed flyers, which were judged anonymously by KCHS administrators. Michael Jennings, eleventh grade, was the high school winner. On October 17th, middle school students participated in the flyer contest. Terra Ramer, sixth grade, was the winner. Those flyers were copied and distributed during the parking lots blitz on November 6th.
October 24th was the highlight of our program. Knox County/North Shelby collided on the football field. Off the field, Cheerleaders from both schools, Renaissance members, Connections class members and fans worked together to publicize the Battle of the Belt challenge. This was the “official” signing of the pledge banner. KCHS cheerleaders wore black “Arrive Alive” t-shirts while NSHS cheerleaders wore white “Arrive Alive” t-shirts. They did “buckle up” cheers together throughout the first quarter. The t-shirt cannon built by the shop class was used to shoot t-shirts into the crowd.
On November 5th, the Battle of the Belt was included in the fall Renaissance Rally. Facts were reviewed and the student body was commended on their beginning seat belt rate. Students received pledge cards as they signed the banner, which was then hung in the cafeteria.
The seat belt challenge was spread through the community by postings on local marquis on November 6th. While during the week of November 10th, seat belt facts were announced each morning on the high school PA system. Seat belt facts were also carried on channel 19, the local cable television station.
An unfortunate, yet timely event occurred on November 10th when a 16-year-old driver turned into the school driveway in front of another student on Highway 6. The two cars collided with severe damage to both vehicles. Both drivers walked away – she had her seatbelt on.
In conclusion, the second unannounced seat belt check was completed on November 14th in which 94% of student drivers and their passengers used their seat belt. “Smarties” were given out to those who buckled up while “Dum-Dums” were given to those who did not. Final statistics indicated that KCHS students improved their use of seat belts by nearly 40%.
The Battle of the Belt challenge ran September 15 through November 21, 2008. Schools were allowed to choose the timeline that worked best for them, allowing six consecutive weeks to complete the first seat belt check, four weeks for education and a final week for the second seat belt check. All paperwork is to be submitted by December 15, 2008 to be eligible for any awards or prize money.
Knox County co-sponsors Cyndy Bliem-Sharp and Reconnection Youth Coordinator Jane Moore expect results of the contest to be available by the first of next year. Knox County participated in both the regional and state competitions. According to MoDOT Community Relations Specialist Tana Akright, they were very impressed with what they have seen so far and Knox County should have a very positive outcome in the competition.