Teens across Bucks to participate in 12th annual Seatbelt Safety Challenge

The competition, hosted by TMA Bucks, encourages high school students to increase seat belt usage for a chance to win $500

By Samantha Bambino

The Times

One year ago, hundreds of students across Bucks County agreed to take part in a challenge, one that could very well save their lives someday.

This was the 11th year of TMA Bucks’ annual High School Seatbelt Safety Challenge, which encourages local teens to always use a seat belt — a simple yet vital action that saved nearly 15,000 lives in 2016, according to Jana Tidwell, manager of public and government affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic.

Baseline surveys of student driver seat belt use were conducted at the beginning and end of the academic year at every public and private high school in the county. In June 2018, after several students of its EAST (Environmental and Spatial Technology) program worked to spread word about the challenge, it was announced the Fairless Hills-based Conwell-Egan Catholic High School came out victorious in both categories of the challenge, something that’s rarely accomplished.

Not only did it achieve the highest overall seat belt use (97 percent) over 18 other participating schools, it also had the greatest percentage increase in seat belt use at 9 percent (88 percent in the fall to 97 percent in the spring).

Now, the 12th year of the Seatbelt Safety Challenge has officially begun. Surveys were recently conducted without the knowledge of the student body or administration in order to ensure the most accurate data sampling. Each school’s result is being forwarded to the administration with an invitation to participate in the challenge.

According to TMA Bucks executive director Steve Noll, the initiative has helped raise awareness over the years about the importance of wearing a seat belt.

“This program simply delivers results as the total combined school average for baseline surveys this fall hit the 90 percent mark for the third consecutive year,” he said. “Twelve years ago when we started the Seatbelt Challenge, it was an extremely dangerous 65 percent. So the TMA, thanks to tremendous support from teachers and school administrators involved with the program, is making potentially life-changing advancements through this program.”

Just as the teens at Conwell-Egan did last year, various student groups will be tasked over the next few months with actively promoting seat belt use to their peers. This is often done by using posters, T-shirts, school-wide announcements and other creative messages.

In the spring, an unannounced follow-up survey will be conducted at each of the participating schools. The one with the highest overall percentage in seat belt use and the school with the greatest percentage increase in seat belt use are both awarded perpetual trophy plaques and $500 cash grants for safety-related use.

In conjunction with the Seatbelt Safety Challenge, TMA Bucks is also hosting the Teen Driver Safety Video PSA Challenge powered by Comcast. As part of the Seatbelt Challenge, all Bucks County high schools have the opportunity to produce and submit a 30-second PSA on teen driver safety. It can deal with any aspect including seat belts, texting, distracted driving and speeding. The school selected as the winner will receive a $500 cash grant and its video will play on Comcast networking. Videos must be uploaded to YouTube with the link emailed to dave@bctma.com by April 1 to be eligible to win.

William Tennent High School was voted the winner of last year’s Teen Driver Video PSA Challenge for the second consecutive year.

Once again, AAA Mid-Atlantic is the premier sponsor for the contest.

“Buckling up is the most important safety measure you can take to protect yourself in a crash. Research shows that seat belts reduce serious crash-related deaths by nearly half, which is why AAA is a proud sponsor of the Bucks County High School Seatbelt Safety Challenge,” Tidwell said. “Seat belts, credited for saving nearly 15,000 lives in 2016, have become habit for most drivers, but not all drivers. The Seatbelt Challenge by TMA Bucks helps to instill seat belt use in teen drivers and their passengers now, so that it becomes a lifesaving habit throughout their lifetime behind the wheel.”

For more information on the Seatbelt Safety Challenge and TMA Bucks, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit transportation management association headquartered at Seven Neshaminy Interplex, Suite 103, Trevose, visit tmabucks.com or call 215–244–9082. ••

Samantha Bambino can be reached at sbambino@newspapermediagroup.com