Fort Scott High School's Seatbelts Are For Everyone program got a $2,500 boost Tuesday evening, courtesy of State Farm Insurance.
The school was recognized during halftime of the FSHS-Chanute game in the high school gym for its support of the Celebrate My Drive Initiative conducted last September. Nationwide on Sept. 15, high school officials, safety advocates, local law enforcement and government leaders joined with more than 1,400 State Farm agents and tens of thousands of teens and their parents for a celebration of this year's class of new teen drivers, a news release said.
On hand for the check presentation were Fort Scott State Farm agent Kale Nelson and his wife, Kelly, Jennifer Dietsch, a State Farm agent in Chanute, school resource officer Toby Nighswonger and members of the SAFE team.
Initially, Nelson said State Farm gave away $100,000 to schools across the U.S. and Canada. Community members showed their support by voting online.
Fort Scott didn't fall into the $100,000 group, but was awarded the $2,500 for its support of the program, which promotes safe driving for teens.
S.A.F.E. is student-driven effort to increase teen restraint compliance through positive rewards and enforcement. Sponsored by the Kansas Department of Transportation, AAA Kansas Traffic Safety Fund, Kansas Trauma Regions, Kansas Department of Health and Environment and State Farm, the program increased seal belt use in participating schools by 14 percent last year. Locally, the FSHS S.A.F.E. Team provides educational efforts about traffic safety including handouts, fliers, assemblies, videos and other activities.
Nighswonger said a lot of the funding awarded Tuesday will go toward educational activities for the SAFE team and some expenditures -- such as breakfast for members -- for when seatbelt surveys are conducted. Money will also be allocated for a future new Tigers scoreboard.
"It's money that we will definitely use to further educate on seatbelt awareness," Nighswonger said.
SAFE started in Crawford County in 2009 and a chapter was formed in Fort Scott in 2010.
"Every year, we have increased our seatbelt usage among high school students," Nighswonger said.
Car crashes are the No. 1 killer of teenagers in America, and the first year behind the wheel is the most dangerous, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a news release said.
State Farm's approach is "sharing, not scaring," the release said. A recent Harris poll showed that when a teenager has one or more parents who are highly involved and supportive during the time their kids get their permit and driver's license, those teens are:
* half as likely to get into an accident
* half as likely to speed, and
* twice as likely to wear a seat belt.
According to the Harris Survey, 57 percent of teenagers believe they would likely die in a car crash if they drink and drive on a regular basis. But only about one third believe they will die some day if they text and drive all the time, the release said.
The survey also showed that when teenage passengers speak up and tell their driver to put the phone down, 84 percent of the time the driver listens to them.
In 2009, an average of eight teenagers died every day from motor vehicle crashes. Per mile driven, teens are four times more likely than older drivers to crash, according to CDC and the release.
"Texting and driving these days is like drinking and driving was when we were in school," Nelson said. The awareness of drinking and driving promoted by Mothers Against Drunk Driving and Students Against Drunk Driving needs to be transferred to social media as well, Nelson said.