Survey: Most students buckling up

Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2005

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Photo courtesy of Project Change
Project Changes members Marie Lyon and Sarika Tamaskar survey the use of seat belts among Sherwood High School students.

The vast majority of Sherwood High School student drivers and their passengers are buckling up for safety, according to the results of a recent random sampling conducted by Project Change, an Olney-area teen-led organization seeking to improve youth health and safety.

This is the fourth annual seat belt safety check that Project Change has conducted at Sherwood.

On the afternoon of Oct. 18, Project Change members Sarika Tamaskar, Marie Lyon, Molly Hines and Fabio Fernandes surveyed 290 student drivers and passengers leaving the Sherwood High School parking lot in 173 cars. More than 87 percent of the students were wearing their seat belts, including 92 percent of the drivers.

The results are identical to last year’s survey.

More than 83 percent of front seat passengers were buckled this year as compared to 68 percent surveyed last year. Nearly 70 percent of back seat passengers were buckled this year as compared with 65 percent last year.

While the results are encouraging, the fact remains that motor vehicle crashes are the No. 1 killer of teenagers nationwide, with 7,884 teen drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2003, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. While teens represent only 7 percent of licensed drivers, they are involved in 14 percent of fatal crashes. In Maryland, one in five teenagers is likely to be involved in a crash during the first year of driving.

The statistics recently led Maryland lawmakers to institute a handful of new driving regulations for teens. As of Oct. 1, drivers younger than 18 who have a learner’s permit or a provisional driver’s license are banned from talking on a cell phone while driving. A newly licensed driver under 18 is not allowed to transport a non-family teen passenger during the first five months of the 18-month provisional licensing period.

Other teen driving laws include increasing the required hours of parent- or adult-supervised driving during the learner’s instructional phase from the 40 hours to a minimum of 60 hours. Ten of the hours must be driven at night.

Another law extends the learner’s permit period for a young driver from four months to a minimum of six months before being eligible for a provisional license. The 18-month provisional license period will restart if a provisional driver is found in violation of the midnight-to-5 a.m. curfew or the state’s seat belt law.

Project Change youth were trained to conduct the seat belt survey at meetings sponsored by the National Organizations for Youth Safety (NOYS). Project Change members have made presentations to NOYS, 4-H Clubs, the American School Health Association, the National Safe Kids Conference, PTSA Delegates Assembly and other organizations to outline what the organization is doing to improve youth safety in the Olney area.

In addition to promoting safe driving, Project Change, along with the local chapter of Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD), recently developed a bullying prevention program called ‘‘You Have the Power!”

With support from Montgomery General Hospital, Project Change plans to package and distribute the program throughout the state. A segment about the program is scheduled to air this month on the PBS program, ‘‘In the Mix.”

Audrey Partington is an adult leader of Project Change in Olney. Her daughter, Amanda, was an active participant when she was a student at Sherwood High School. For more information, visit the Project Change Web site at