More students at Wake Forest High School are wearing seat belts after the school’s Key Club launched a campaign this fall to encourage peers to buckle up.
Teens in the Driver Seat is a national program in which students urge each other to make smart choices.
Lily Olmo, president of the school’s Key Club, started the nine-week campaign at Wake Forest High after realizing some students did not wear seat belts.
“In Wake County, especially in the past few years, I feel like there has been so many car-related deaths lately, and it is very sad on a student body,” Olmo said. “I know a lot of my friends don’t wear seat belts and a lot of people don’t think it’s a big deal. It is something that can save lives, and a lot of people don’t look at it that way.”
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A committee of 20 students conducted a survey and found that 85 percent of drivers and passengers were wearing seat belts in the student parking lot.
The committee urged their peers to pledge to buckle up, and also to tie red ribbons on their steering wheels as a reminder to wear seat belts.
Weeks later, when the committee conducted another survey, it found that 97 percent of students were wearing seat belts.
Shireanne Long, the Key Club adviser, said students are more likely to listen to their peers than teachers or adults who tell them to buckle up.
Courtney Bailey, a committee member, said she saw the effect she could have on her fellow classmates.
“Some of them didn’t wear their seat belts because adults had told them to,” Bailey said. “It is different hearing from your peers and friends, because they don’t have to tell you to do something. It shows that they care about you. I think people listened to us more because we are their age, and it is different when an adult tells you.”
Olmo said the campaign made her think about the decisions she was making.
“Doing the program made me more aware,” Olmo said. “It is as simple as saying ‘buckle up’ to your friends when you get in the car. It’s really not that hard to do, you just have to remember it. It definitely has gone a long way with the people involved in the campaign.”
Long said she was pleased to learn more Wake Forest High School students are wearing seat belts. But that doesn’t mean the problem is completely solved.
“I am happy we increased the number of students who use their seat belt, but we need to continue to work on it,” Long said.
A 2013 study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found about 56 percent of teens who died in vehicle accidents were not wearing seat belts at the time of the crash.
In 2012, 876 people died in North Carolina due to not buckling up.
Last year, nine teens in Wake County died in vehicle crashes. It’s unclear how many of those crashes involved a lack of seat belts.
Since Wake Forest High successfully completed the Teens in the Driver Seat campaign, the school has a chance to win $1,500 to spend on safe-driving improvements. Olmo said she hopes to place signs around the school’s campus that urge students to buckle up.
The Key Club will host another campaign again in the spring to raise awareness about distracted driving.
Moomey: 919-829-8954; @lizmoomey