ALTON -- An all-school assembly was held March 18 at Alton High School to encourage young drivers to buckle their seat belts.
The Missouri Department of Transportation in conjunction with K-Kountry 95 radio have joined as partners to promote a program called 21 Days.
"The program is based on the psychology theory that a habit can be established in 21 days," said project coordinator Ann Marie Newberry.
She said the project will focus on teens who are already driving or about to drive.
Newberry said members of the South Central Region of the Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety developed the 21 Days program. She said the group was formed in 2005 as part of a statewide effort to reduce the number of fatalities on Missouri's roadways. Members of the group include law enforcement officials, engineers, emergency services personnel and other interested individuals. Newberry said after studying statistics, the group determined young drivers are an important target.
According to South Central Region Facilitator Jennifer Atkinson, the teen population in rural areas is among the least likely to buckle up. "Taking time to put on a safety belt can increase a person's chances of surviving a car accident by 40 to 50 percent," she said.
"We have all heard teenagers make excuses about not buckling up because it is not cool. The goal of this program is to introduce the idea in a way accepted by teens using the peer pressure factor to our advantage as we turn that excuse around," she said.
Newberry told students gathered in the Comet gym that they did not know it, but last week student drivers were watched and a survey was made regarding who was wearing seat belts and who was not.
Newberry reported the statistics were not very good. "Forty-five percent of the drivers at the school did not wear their seat belts and 40 percent of the front seat passengers in those vehicles did not put their seat belts on," she said.
As part of the 21 Days program, the students from the school have recorded seat belt awareness messages which will be played on K-Kountry 95 radio. There will also be posters all over the school reminding students to wear their seat belts.
Newberry said after 21 days have passed, South Central Region members will return to the school for a final survey to determine if safety belt usage has increased. Those caught buckling up will be presented with special 21 Days T-shirts.
Thayer and Koshkonong high schools are also participating in the program.