Spring Grove High School won the inaugural York County High School Seat Belt Challenge with a 93 percent usage rate, the highest among nine participating high schools.
The other big prize went to the York County School of Technology for achieving the biggest increase in seat belt use, from 66 percent at the beginning of the competition to 82 percent at the end.
The contest was organized by the York Area Highway Safety Council and the Center for Traffic Safety. In March, the agencies did an unannounced observation of how many students were buckling up at school, then sent each school district the results, with an invitation to participate in the challenge.
Later, they returned for another unannounced observation of seat belt usage at participating high schools.
Spring Grove and the School of Technology each received $500 mini-grants from State Farm Insurance to use for traffic safety education, and were honored at a ceremony at the offices of State Farm agent Vincent Cerceo, chairman of the York Area Highway Safety Council's Safe Teen Driving Committee.
Seat belt use increased at eight of the nine high schools involved in the competition. Several schools nearly tied for first place. Dallastown and York Catholic both scored 92 percent on seat belt use; at South Western, 91 percent of students buckled up.
Reaction: Spring Grove High School Principal Rosemary Cugliari credited the school's driver education program, now in its second year, with the high rate of seat belt use.
"We're really building the program," Cugliari said.
All of the money raised from the Officer David Tome Memorial 5K Race goes toward the driver education programs at Spring Grove, and the fundraiser has made a difference in restarting the program since it was cut more than 10 years ago, she said.
The Officer David Tome Memorial 5K Race is held in memory of Northern York County Regional Police Officer David Tome, who was struck and killed by a car in 2008 while on the job reconstructing a prior accident scene.
York County School of Technology Principal Gerry Mentz recognized York Area Regional Police Officer Lee Morris for his work in spearheading the seat belt campaign and speaking with students individually.
The goal: Bryan Sellers, chairman of the York Area Highway Safety Council, said the goal of the campaign was simple - increasing seat belt use rates and decrease the number of teens who die in motor vehicle crashes.
Since the Center for Traffic Safety began 26 years ago, vehicles have become safer with airbags and other safety features. But wearing a seat belt is still the most effective thing drivers can do to protect themselves in a crash, said Wayne Harper, director of the Center for Traffic Safety.
The initial survey results from schools participating in the seat belt challenge ranged from 66 percent to 88 percent. Dover, Kennard-Dale, Northeastern and Susquehannock were the other high schools participating. Usage rates increased to between 77 and 93 percent during the second round of unannounced observations.
"The voluntary compliance percentages of students who chose to wear seat belts on their own blows you away," said Mark Bentzel, Northern York County Regional Police Chief. "We've investigated a lot of tragic accidents that have taken the lives of teenagers, but seat belt usage is going to save lives."
Harper said the competition will be held again next year.
- Reach Chelsea Shank at 505-5432 or email@example.com.