Home Poquoson, Fredericksburg, Stafford students place in state seat belt safety campaign
Schools, Virginia

Poquoson, Fredericksburg, Stafford students place in state seat belt safety campaign

Rebecca Barnabi
seat belt
(© Drazen – stock.adobe.com)

Poquoson High School in Poquoson City is the 2023 winner of Youth of Virginia Speak Out About Traffic Safety’s (YOVASO) Drive for Change: Buckle Up and Slow Down campaign.

The yearly challenge, which aims to encourage youth and teens to develop a lifelong, buckle-up habit, saw a 4.9 percent increase in seat belt use among students at participating schools that completed pre- and post- seat belt checks. The campaign also focused on speed-prevention for young drivers.

REACH Homeschool Group in Fredericksburg placed second and North Stafford High School in Stafford County placed third in the high school division. YOVASO is also recognizing two middle schools for their outstanding work over the course of the three-month campaign. Auburn Middle School in Montgomery County placed first in the middle school division and Forest Middle School in Bedford County placed second.

As the statewide winners, Poquoson High School and Auburn Middle School will each receive $500 toward future driver and passenger safety programs. REACH Homeschool and Forest Middle School will receive $250 and North Stafford will receive $100. All campaign prizes were funded by a grant from State Farm®, which also supported campaign materials.

“State Farm congratulates the participating schools for educating teens on the importance of wearing a seat belt,” Dwayne Redd, State Farm spokesperson, said. “We hope the students develop a lifelong habit of buckling up, both as a driver and a passenger.” The grant from State Farm® also supported campaign materials.

Sixty-eight high schools, youth groups and other traffic safety organizations participated in the annual campaign that ran throughout the months of September, October and November 2023. Winners were selected based on their campaign involvement which included developing one large-scale creative event to reach the entire student body. The creative event was judged on content, creativity and number of students reached.

Schools and youth groups also conducted behavior changing activities each month to emphasize the importance of the campaign’s theme to buckle up and slow down. Other judging criteria included the results of pre and post campaign seat belt checks to encourage buckling up among students.

“We are excited by the increase in seat belt use among students at participating schools during the Drive for Change campaign,” said Mary King, YOVASO Program Manager. “The participating schools, youth groups, and student leaders did an outstanding job in developing creative ways to encourage teens to buckle up and slow down and educating young students about the importance of always wearing a seat belt.  We hope our schools and student traffic safety advocates will continue to improve seat belt use rates in their communities by reminding peers and loved ones to always buckle up.”

Participating schools sponsored hundreds of activities and events during the campaign aimed at increasing seat belt use and/or preventing speeding. Examples include buckle-up themed tailgate parties and halftime events, safety demonstrations, driver and passenger safety themed trunk-or-treats, and impaired driving prevention obstacle courses. Students who participated in activities were rewarded with YOVASO buckle up flashlight key chains, wristbands with safety messages, and stickers imprinted with a buckle up message. Other materials were also given out including buckle up reminder cards, mandala art activity sheets, and Halloween safety activity books and treat bags for elementary-age programs.

YOVASO is Virginia’s Peer-to-Peer Young Driver and Passenger Safety Program and is a program of the Virginia State Police with grant funding by the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles. YOVASO is free and open to all Virginia high schools, middle schools and youth groups. YOVASO has 110 schools and youth groups that actively participate in the program.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.