State contest pushes seat-belt use; grand prize goes to Sikeston students

Friday, February 10, 2006

ORAN, Mo. -- High school student Robert Lange buckles up more often now. "The statistics are shocking about not wearing seat belts," said Lange.

He was among six Oran High School students honored Thursday at a school assembly by Missouri highway safety officials as part of the new "Restrain Yourself: Arrive Alive" contest.

The contest challenged high school students across the state to develop 30-second public service videos to convince fellow teenagers to wear seat belts when they drive or ride in a vehicle.

A total of 399 students in 150 schools in 92 counties participated in the contest.

Sikeston Career and Technology Center students Rachel Beydler and Michael Sansagraw won the grand prize -- $2,000 to be split between the two students and $1,000 for the school.

Beydler, 16, introduces herself in the video as sophomore class president and center for the varsity volleyball team.

Beydler's car was struck broadside in an accident last October. She was wearing a seat belt, which prevented major injuries.

"I'll play again next year because I took an extra moment to click -- will you?" she asks.

State Farm Insurance provided a total of $5,000 in prizes for the top three winning entries.

The Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety created the contest after a state survey last April found that only 56 percent of high school students buckled up, said Leanna Depue, Missouri's highway safety director.

"We watched 15,000 teenagers drive in and out of their schools," she told students gathered in the Oran High School gym.

In the past three years, 500 people ages 15 to 20 have died in traffic accidents in Missouri. Seventy-eight percent weren't wearing seat belts, Depue said.

She told Oran students she appreciated their involvement in the statewide contest.

High school teacher Tonya Skinner encouraged students in her business technology class to enter the contest. Students used class equipment to make the public-service announcements.

"I have been an avid seat belt user," said Skinner.

Oran High School student Monica Scherer said many of her classmates only have to drive a few blocks to reach their homes after school.

In such cases, it's easy for students to forget to buckle up, she said.

Besides Scherer and Lange, Thursday's ceremony honored students Wendy Eftink, Erica Michelsen, Cody Dirnberger and Caleb Seyer.

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