More of Moffat County buckling up after school seatbelt challenge | CraigDailyPress.com

More of Moffat County buckling up after school seatbelt challenge

The results are in from the school seatbelt challenge — a partnership between local health care providers, schools. and law enforcement — and the results are encouraging, according to health officials.

In the three months prior to the seatbelt challenge, The Memorial Hospital at Craig treated eight motor-vehicle crash patients that had been restrained at the time of the incident; five unrestrained patients were treated, and one patient was treated, but it was not known whether they had been wearing a restraint at the time.

Law enforcement, emergency responders, and Memorial Regional Health staff handed out ice cream vouchers instead of tickets during the Seat belt Challenge, held the first week of high school.

In the three months after the seat belt challenge, TMH saw 23 motor-vehicle crash patients who had been restrained at the time of the crash, four who were unrestrained, and one whose restraint status was unknown.

"This may be completely coincidental, but we found it interesting," said Megan O’Toole, trauma nurse coordinator for Memorial Regional Health.

The seatbelt challenge was held at Moffat County High School the week of Aug. 27. On the first day, MRH staff, joined by Colorado State Patrol and the Craig Police Department, tracked seatbelt use and found in 138 vehicles, all occupants were wearing seatbelts; in 21 vehicles, none of the occupants were wearing seatbelts; and in 16 vehicles, some of the occupants were wearing seatbelts.

Treats, not tickets, were handed out to students who were wearing seatbelts. Each youth was given a coupon for two free scoops of ice cream at Bear Coal Soda Fountain to encourage them to continue to buckle up.

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That effort was considered so successful that the program expanded to challenge students at Craig Middle School and all the elementary schools.

A total of 1,400 ice cream coupons were handed out. Elementary school students wearing their seat belts also received stickers. In addition, students received flyers with statistics about motor vehicle crashes and distracted driving.

O’Toole said the seatbelt challenge was focused on children for the following reasons:

• Preventable injuries are the number one killers of kids in the U.S.

• Six teens, age 16 to 19, die each day from injuries resulting from motor vehicle crashes.

• Per driven mile, 16- to 19-year-olds are three times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than those age 20 and older.

• Anyone found not to be wearing a seatbelt could be fined a minimum of $65.

• The average motor vehicle crash-related fatalities in Northwest Colorado from 2010 to 2014 were about four per year in Moffat County, three per year in Routt County, and two per year in Rio Blanco County.

The work to raise seat belt awareness continues. With the help of the county, fire department, and MRH Rapid Care, regular reminders are being posted to electronic message boards.

“That seat belt looks good on you” and “be protected, not projected” are some of the sayings that have been used, O’Toole said.

Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.