Leading by example

Conwell-Egan wins both categories of 2017–18 Bucks County High School Seatbelt Safety Challenge

By Samantha Bambino

The Times

Picture perfect: Pictured are (from left) TMA Bucks executive director Steve Noll, students Emma Kirby, Robert Phinn and Todd Hartman, and Sara Weir of the AAA Mid-Atlantic Foundation for Traffic Safety. SOURCE: TMA BUCKS

It was barely 7:30 a.m. on Monday, June 11, but the students of Conwell-Egan weren’t feeling the least bit sleepy. No, they hadn’t consumed copious amounts of caffeine, but they did ingest some exciting news.

During a special, highly-anticipated ceremony, it was announced by representatives of TMA Bucks that the Fairless Hills-based Catholic school was the winner of its annual Bucks County High School Seatbelt Safety Challenge for the first time.

Now in its 11th year, the mission of the Seatbelt Safety Challenge is to encourage local teens to buckle up, a simple yet often neglected action that could potentially save a life.

“Car crashes are the leading cause of death of all teens, yet of all teens who died in passenger vehicle crashes in 2015, more than half were not wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash,” said Jana L. Tidwell, manager of public and government affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic, one of the premier sponsors for this year’s challenge. “Research shows that seat belts reduce serious crash-related injuries by about half.”

The 2017–18 Seatbelt Safety Challenge kicked off in the fall, when baseline surveys on seat belt usage by student drivers were conducted at high schools throughout the county. To ensure the most accurate data sampling, the surveys took place without the knowledge of the student body or administration.

All schools were then invited to participate in the Challenge, which tasked them with raising their respective seat belt use percentages over the next several months. To accomplish this, dedicated student groups helped promote the competition to their peers in a variety of creative ways.

At Conwell-Egan, the core students who took initiative in spreading the word about the Challenge were Robert Phinn, Todd Hartman and Emma Kirby from the EAST (Environmental and Spatial Technology) program. All were under the direction of teacher/facilitator Josh Beauchamp.

Thanks to the efforts of Beauchamp and his EAST members, follow-up surveys conducted in April and May showed Conwell-Egan student drivers had the highest overall seat belt use (97 percent) over 18 other participating Bucks County high schools. They also had the greatest percentage increase in seat belt use at 9 percent (88 percent in fall to 97 percent in spring).

“By participating in this challenge, we have gained knowledge behind the wheel and also grew in striving to get people to be the best they can be while driving,” Phinn said. “We are glad to have such an impact on our school community and the safety of our classmates, friends and staff.”

Assistant principal for student life, Maggie Markmann, shared a similar sentiment, expressing her excitement over Conwell-Egan not only winning the Challenge for the first time, but coming out on top in both categories.

“Congratulations to the team of students on successfully increasing the level of safety on our campus,” she said. “We are proud of the leadership that they have exhibited and we are excited to continue safe driving initiatives here at Conwell-Egan Catholic.”

During the June 11 ceremony, the school was presented with two $500 cash grants and perpetual trophy plaques. The cash prize was donated by TMA Bucks and is encouraged to be used by the school for safety-related purposes.

“This year’s outcome with Conwell-Egan winning both categories is a strong testament to how successful this program can truly be,” said TMA Bucks acting executive director Steve Noll. “Students coming together and working hard day in and day out to promote positive change like getting their peers to wear their seat belts is a tremendous achievement that potentially saves lives.”

Last year, Northampton Township’s Villa Joseph Marie High School came out on top with the highest overall seat belt usage, while Warminster’s William Tennent High School celebrated the greatest increase. In May, TMA Bucks announced William Tennent was voted the winner of the Teen Driver Safety Video PSA Challenge powered by Comcast, which is a component of the Seatbelt Safety Challenge.

Sponsors for the 2018 Challenge include AAA Mid-Atlantic, Automotive Training Center (Warminster campus), Bucks County Courier Times and Intelligencer, McCafferty Auto Group, McMahon Associates, state Sen. Tommy Tomlinson, St. Mary Medical Center Trauma Program, Stark & Stark, Univest and Visit Bucks County.

“Congratulations to the students of Conwell-Egan Catholic High School for stepping up and winning the Bucks County High School Seatbelt Safety Challenge this year,” AAA’s Tidwell said. “Conwell-Egan Catholic students are certainly an example to be followed for all teen drivers when it comes to wearing seat belts and potentially saving lives.” ••

For information on the Seatbelt Safety Challenge and TMA Bucks, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit transportation management association based at Seven Neshaminy Interplex, Suite 103 in Trevose, visit tmabucks.com.

Samantha Bambino can be reached at sbambino@newspapermediagroup.com

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