Students produce video on benefits of buckling up

September 25, 1994|By Lan Nguyen | Lan Nguyen,Sun Staff Writer

Five Howard County students are no dummies when it comes to seat belts.

As Centennial Elementary School fifth-graders last year, they were part of a group that worked on a yearlong safety belt awareness project.

The result of the students' work is a 28-minute video called "Kids Asking Questions: Secure Your Life -- Wear Your Seatbelt." All elementary school teachers will use the video as a training tool this year to help them teach seat belt safety classes.

"Not many people realized how effective it is to wear seat belts," said group member Jamie Hilliard, 11, now a Burleigh Manor Middle School sixth-grader. "We really learned to make people become more aware."

Other students involved in the project -- Kim Stago, Mike Walch, John Kerwin and Carolyn Schmid -- also are 11-year-old Burleigh Manor sixth-graders.

While the students said they never travel in a car without buckling up, they said working on the project opened their eyes to how seat belts save lives.

"I wore my seat belt all the time, but I wasn't aware of how important it was to wear your seat belt," Carolyn said.

Working on the project "really made me more cautious," Kim said.

The students also sponsored a poster contest to raise awareness among their peers. The winning poster by Joy Limpawuchara, who also attended Centennial Lane last year, has been made into a billboard for display in Howard County.

The video the students produced is a question-and-answer format with a panel of five community representatives, including Victoria Savage, a teacher who says wearing a seat belt helped save her life during a head-on collision on an icy highway last winter.

Students also posed questions to Janice Vanisko, a Howard County General Hospital emergency room nurse who sees first hand the injuries that car accident victims suffer, and to Paul Yodzis, a police officer, and Donald Howell, a battalion chief for the county's fire and rescue service.

Rick May, the state's occupant safety coordinator, also was on the panel. He gave the students a presentation in which he talked about crash dynamics and proper seat belt usage. Wearing a seat belt gives motorists a 50 percent better chance of surviving a crash, he said.

Raising awareness among children of the need to wear seat belts is important, he said. "It's important we establish those habits at a young age. Hopefully, it will carry on to their adolescence and adulthood."

In the video, students tell viewers that one person is injured in a car accident in the United States every 10 seconds and that one person dies in a car accident every 10 minutes.

A total of 15,000 lives could be saved in a year if everyone wore seat belts, and car accidents cost the country $74 billion a year for medical bills, car repair and lost wages, according to the video.

While Maryland already had a safety belt law for children and infants, it didn't enact a seat belt law for adults until 1986. The percentage of motorists wearing seat belts has increased from 50 percent to 80 percent since the law passed, the students learned.

The students conducted the project with a $4,500 grant from the state transportation department's Highway Safety Commission, which wanted to increase seat belt awareness among elementary school students.

The school system's Office of Health Education, which won the grant, solicited ideas from elementary schools, and Centennial Lane teacher Monteray Morell came up with a winning proposal for a video and a poster contest.

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