Region 8 students work to reduce fatal accidents

By Josh Harvison - bio | email

STEELE, MO (KAIT) – Students with the South Pemiscot School District Wednesday performed a seat belt check in a competition against other schools.

In October, students found that 47% of students were wearing seat belts when they arrived at school. Wednesday, more than 80% of students were found wearing seat belts.

"The leading cause of death in teenagers are car crashes and we didn't want to lose any friends or any students so the student body thought this would be a good program to start at our school," said Mellissa Carter, teacher.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of students in fatal crashes has dropped slightly over the last year. Approximately 5,000 people between 16 years old and 20 years old were killed in car accidents. More than 400,000 people in that same age range were seriously injured.

"They think, oh a seat belt could kill me but really, the truth is, the seat belt keeps you inside the vehicle and you're 50 percent more likely to survive a car crash if you stay inside the vehicle," said Carter.

Carter said a group of students came up with the idea after attending a conference in Cape Girardeau earlier this year. The conference consisted of personal stories of tragedy and descriptions of what happens when a person doesn't wear a seat belt.

"It's about safe driving, no texting, no distracted driving," said Lindsey Hanley, who lost her mother in a car accident nearly three years ago. "It's called SPS, students protecting students, and basically we're just trying to get the word out to wear seat belts."

Hanley said her mother was found dead November 29, 2007. Her mother's car was found in a ditch on her school bus route. Hanley said she saw her mom's car from her seat on the bus.

"She missed her turn and over-corrected and winded up in the ditch, and the next morning I was on the bus and I saw the car, but I didn't think anything of it. I was like, that looks like my mom's car, but it can't be. but it was," said Hanley. "For a long time even after, I thought this was not real. it's just a dream. I was like she's just going to walk through the door one day but it's real."

Hanley said she broke down in tears before and during her speech before the student body. During the assembly, fellow classmates were drawn in to her emotionally charged testimony.

"It was like, you could hear a pin drop. it was so quiet," said Hanley. "I just felt like it needed to be told if it would help people."

"There were a lot of kids tearing up. there was a couple who had to leave the gym because they've had experiences with this," said Codie Perry, who was in charge of the SPS project. "She was on her way to school one day and I guess she passed the car that her mother was in. she didn't realize it."

Hanley said she learned a lot about herself throughout the SPS project, which ends Friday.

"Even if some people don't listen. I feel like if I find at least one person in there to tell them that it's not hard to buckle up. it's easy and everybody can do it, I think that it'll turn out to be something good," said Hanley. "I think she's saying she's proud and I think she's saying she wishes she would have done the same thing."

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