Thermopolis Independent Record - Your source for news in Hot Springs County

By Mark Dykes
Assistant Editor 

Students lead belt battle


Mark Dykes

A dummy is violently ejected from a rollover simulator during an assembly for Hot Springs County High School students. The device was used to demonstrate injuries that can happen to people if they don't buckle up.

This month, Thermopolis is going head-to-head against Worland, in a competition to see who has the safest drivers in the 2016 Battle of the Belts. The challenge focuses on making communities safer places to live, not just for students but for all travelers on Wyoming roadways.

Tom Cunningham, the safety education coordinator for Injury Prevention Resources and Safe Communities coordinator for WYDOT District 5, recently performed a series of Seat Belt Observational Surveys, during which he observed 100 vehicles coming into the high school parking lots at Thermopolis and Worland.

According to these surveys, 67 percent of Thermopolis drivers were buckled up, compared to Worland's 54 percent. Though the percentage of Thermopolis students buckled up was 72, compared to 51 in Worland, only 50 percent of Thermopolis adults were buckled up, compared to Worland's 65 percent.

Cunningham noted 67 percent is still a long way from 100, and he challenged the students to get that last 33 percent.

During an assembly Thursday, Injury Prevention Resources Executive Director Noel Cooper explained to students the most likely way for people between ages 5 and 35 to die is in a vehicle, and his agency is about eliminating that threat through promoting seat belt use and educating about the dangers of texting or drinking and driving.

Cooper, who is from Fremont County, said there were 17 deaths on that county's roadways last year, and all 17 people were not wearing seatbelts; 14 of them were impaired.

"Every one of those people meant something to somebody," he said. He further added buckling a seatbelt is one of the simplest things people can do to save their lives.

"After reviewing the first round of results, it is staggering to think that only about over half of our local high school students are wearing seatbelts," Cooper stated. "I ask that parents really take a minute to see if their child is buckling up. You are four times more likely to survive a roll over crash when buckled. Add that to the fact that a rollover crash is the most common type of crash in Wyoming and you realize that we have a lot of teens on our roads at risk of death and serious injury."

Later this month, another round of surveys will be done, and results will be compared to determine an overall increase for the schools' safety. The winner will receive the championship belt, and bragging rights until the 2018 Battle.

Hot Springs County Deputy Daniel Eggli said in today's world sometimes people don't have a choice, but putting on a seat belt is an easy decision to make.


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