GRAFTON, Mass. — At 7:30 a.m. Thursday, as the fall sun was barely creeping over the horizon, a team of Grafton High School students, armed with clipboards, took count of every car that entered the parking lot. How many were in the car and were they all wearing their seat belts?
They marked students, parents, and teachers as they pulled in. The head count is part of a school wide seat belt safety campaign that begins when the students are freshmen. The result? About 92 percent buckled up today.
“This was one of the best results we've had since we started taking this seat belt survey,” said Maureen Cimoch, a department head at the high school and the school’s advisor for Students Against Destructive Decisions. Twice a year, Cimoch runs these surveys, and all year round she preaches the benefits of auto safety.
The effort seems to be sinking in. Nationally, only 72 percent of teenagers buckle up, according to a 2010 government study, the most recent available. That puts Grafton High students way ahead.
Cimoch, a 30 year veteran at the high school, is happy the students scored high, and believes the results are a reflection of an intense safety education program throughout the academic year.
She, like other SADD advisers in the state, have their work cut out for them. Massachusetts has one of the lowest seat belt compliance rates in the country, 73.7 percent, versus 85 percent nationally, according to a 2010 National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration report.
“Some teenagers won’t wear their seat belt if they are on a short trip, but most accidents occur within 5 to 10 miles of their home,” she said. “I remind them, what would it feel like if I threw you against a wall at 30 miles per hour.”
Thursday’s seat belt survey was part of a wider awareness campaign. Black “SAAD” T-shirts were worn by some students and new yellow signs are being installed at the parking lots entrance and exits reminding everyone that buckling up is a safe practice and is the law.