YORK TOWNSHIP — When Elizabeth Whetstone arrived at Buckeye High School on Tuesday morning, she was relieved to see local law enforcement — along with D.A.R.E. students — were there to reward students for wearing their seat belts, rather than dealing with a more harmful situation in the high school’s parking lot.
The Buckle Up for a Burger event involves unannounced driver inspections and a reward for wearing seat belts. On Tuesday, Buckeye students were put to the test.
“I thought it was a great idea to make an impact on both student and parent drivers,” said the Litchfield senior.
“I think events like Buckle Up for a Burger are necessary to reinforce the message law enforcement has been trying to communicate to drivers for decades: wear your seat belt. This is a friendly way to save our community member’s lives.”
Students wearing seat belts received a coupon for a complimentary burger or beverage from a local McDonald’s. They also received a gift bag of information and “Click It or Ticket” giveaways.
The Buckle Up for a Burger event began at 6:30 a.m. at the high school. Random seat belt checks were conducted as students arrived. Organizers kept quiet about the event so students would be caught unprepared.
The Medina County Safe Communities Coalition, local law enforcement, volunteers and Buckeye administrators participated in the event, held as part of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s “Click It or Ticket” safety campaign.
Those not wearing seat belts were not given citations but were reminded of the importance of buckling up every time they are behind the wheel.
“Seat belts are the most effective way to prevent serious injury or even death in an accident,” said Jessica Miles, project director for Safe Communities. “By simply wearing a seat belt correctly, a teen’s chance of surviving a crash increases by 50 percent.”
Miles said the surprise factor in morning events such as Tuesday’s are an effective way to reach student drivers. Miles also noted that the event is typically held once a year and rotates between all the Medina County high schools.
Buckeye juniors Meghan and Morgan Schmitt, both of Valley City, assisted at the event. Holding a “Click It or Ticket” banner, they greeted the arriving student drivers.
Morgan said she was excited going into Tuesday’s event, mentioning that she looked forward to seeing her peers’ reactions, and that they were going to be rewarded for safe driving.
Her sister, Meghan, added, “I don’t know why people don’t wear their seat belts. They prevent so many injuries and help keep you safe.”
Nearly 300 gift bags and coupons were handed out to drivers.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 59 percent of high school student drivers wear seat belts. Programs like Buckle Up for a Burger aim to increase that percentage.