Seat belt campaign ups usage for Naperville students
By David Dial For The Sun November 26, 2010 9:08PM
Courtney Limes, 16, junior at Naperville North High School
Making It Click poster contest winners
Naperville North High School Courtnie Limes, 16, junior
Naperville Central High School Jonathan Coros, 18, senior
Neuqua Valley High School Michael Cosmos, 16, junior
Updated: April 19, 2011 5:20AM
Thanksgiving is a time for traditions: Expressing gratitude for what we have, watching a football game, and eating that second piece of pie.
It’s also one of the busiest travel holidays of the year. With all the additional traffic out on the road and winter weather approaching, motorists need to remember to fasten their seat belts.
Traffic safety has always been a top priority of the Naperville Police Department. We have had much success over the years as traffic volume and congestion continues to increase, and our traffic crashes continue to decrease. Yet in Naperville, more people are injured and killed in traffic crashes every year than by any other crime.
We strive to provide structured traffic safety education programs and enforcement initiatives to gain voluntary compliance with the resources we have at hand. With the current economic climate, it has provided challenges for us to be creative and think outside the perennial box when it comes to traffic safety. I’d like to take a few moments talking about the success of a recent, cost effective, life-saving traffic safety program.
This fall, Indian Prairie School District 204, the Naperville Community Unit School District 203, and community businesses joined the Naperville Police Department to coordinate a seat belt program called Making It Click in the three Naperville high schools. The idea behind this program is to instill in students a lifelong awareness of seat belt use and foster permanent vehicle safety behavior in the future. Traffic accidents continue to be the greatest cause of death and injury to teens. One of the best ways to reduce this risk is by simply wearing a seat belt.
Volunteers from the Naperville Community Radio Watch performed pre- and post-observation seat belt surveys at North, Central and Neuqua Valley high schools. The surveys measured the seat belt use among teens at the three high schools in Naperville. The initial surveys indicated all three high schools were below the state average. Seat belt use needed improvement. One way to improve compliance is traffic enforcement, but ticketing of young teen drivers and passengers was not going to be a part of this program.
The focus of this program was voluntary compliance through education and encouragement.
A seat belt sign design contest was launched at all three schools. The designs required the use of school initials or name and school colors. The winning design will be posted at most exits to each school as students, faculty, parents, and visitors leave the parking lots. This will serve as a personal reminder for each respective school as the signs were designed by one of their students.
In addition to the design contest, there were several announcements on the school websites and traffic safety literature passed out to students. AAA Chicago also donated 2,000 free music download cards. Members of the traffic unit selected different school parking lot exits at random and unannounced to the students. We handed out a free music download card to each student who was “caught” wearing their seat belt during a six-week period. The students were excited to receive something for doing the right thing and so were many of their parents.
We collected more than 100 seat belt sign design applications from all the high schools. The judging of the sign contest was conducted by members of the Naperville Police Department Traffic Unit and a representative of each sponsor. A few weeks ago, we were proud to present one winner from each high school for the seat belt sign design contest. I congratulate these three students on a job well done. They have taken the time to be creative and educational to promote seat belt use among their peers. We’re proud to be soon displaying their work at the exits to their schools.
The Police Department is thankful to the many businesses and community sponsors in supporting this life-saving program. The three winning students were each awarded $250. All of these activities boosted student seat belt use from 85.5 percent to 91.5 percent in just two months without issuing one single traffic ticket. It’s apparent that a culture of traffic safety is embedded in the schools, the community, businesses, citizen volunteers, and the Police Department. Without the partnership of the entities involved, this success would not be possible.
The Police Department is committed to providing effective police services in partnership with our community, and this is a fine example of how we can all work together to ensure the safety of some of our best and brightest young motorists.
Enjoy this upcoming holiday season, and you alone can make it click too. Buckle up Naperville.
Naperville Police Chief David Dial’s column is published every other Monday.