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Stafford Schools Place First, Second in Statewide Seat Belt Challenge

By Chris Jones. Photo provided by Dixon-Smith Middle School.

Dixon-Smith Middle School placed first, and A.G. Wright Middle School placed second in the middle school division of the Youth of Virginia Speak Out About Traffic Safety (YOVASO) 2016 “Save Your Tailgate, Buckle Up” (SYT) campaign.

The peer-to-peer education and prevention program strives to educate teens about the life saving benefits of buckling up. More than half of the 60 teens killed in motor vehicle accidents in Virginia in 2015 involved teens not wearing a seat belt, program officials said.

“The goal of Save Your Tailgate is to make buckling up a lifelong habit among youth and teens,” said Casey Taylor, YOVASO program development coordinator.

Participating schools sponsored buckle-up themed tailgate parties, safety demonstrations, and coloring contests aimed at increasing seat belt use. The day also included educational programs on seat belt safety, and participants were rewarded with stress reliever footballs, tip cards, buckle up reminder cards, and other materials imprinted with the buckle up message.

Dixon Smith Middle School School Resource Officer Deputy M.L. Warnick, of the Stafford County Sheriff’s Office, explained her passion in promoting seat belt safety to teens.

“When I was 18, I was involved in a motor vehicle accident where I was not wearing my seat belt. My friend was driving me home about two miles away, and I didn’t think putting my seat belt on would make that much of a difference with such a short ride.

“About two minutes into the ride, we were hit head on by a driver, who did not use their turn signal and cut in front of us in an intersection. I flew out of my seat, hit the windshield, and fell back down on the shift.

“The impact fractured my femur. I was in the hospital for nine days. I was removed from the delayed entry program into the army, due to the lengthy recovery time I had.

“Eleven years, a titanium rod, and multiple screws later, I still have pain from time to time. The accident changed the path of my life, simply by not putting on my seat belt.

“This is the message I stress to my students.

“I had a great group of students help with the SYT campaign, and I truly believe the safety tips they learned will be applied for the rest of their lives.”​

Among the 72 schools that participated in the annual campaign that ran from September 19 to October 14, seat belt use increased an average of 8.2 percent from pre-campaign to post-campaign.

The other Stafford schools that participate were Brooke Point High School, Colonial Forge High School, North Stafford High School, Stafford High School, Edward E. Drew Middle School, H.H. Poole Middle School, Rodney Thompson Middle School, and Shirley Heim Middle School; and in Spotsylvania County, Courtland High School.

The Save Your Tailgate, Buckle Up program has 101 active school clubs across Virginia, and is sponsored by Youth of Virginia Speak Out About Traffic Safety (YOVASO), the Virginia State Police (VSP,) and the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles Highway Safety Office, in partnership with State Farm Insurance.
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