As part of EAST (Environmental and Spatial Technology), Project Ignition at Har-Ber High School in Springdale, Ark., has focused on topics related to distracted driving. The program has grown since its inception in 2012 to include several topics, from driving under the influence to this year’s focus on seat belt safety and awareness. “I believe that when students are involved with addressing problems that affect them, they learn and are more educated in making better choices,” said EAST Facilitator Debra Lamb. EAST students and Lamb agree that youth voice is important: students are more likely to listen when the message comes from their peers.
PI at Har-Ber held several events throughout the school year, including a safe driving fair, and they also conducted a mock accident. Seat belts were painted at all entrances of the school, encouraging its students to buckle up. “We had an interactive event where students could take pictures in the photo booth they made and sign pledge banners,” said student Sarah Strickland. “We received 254 pledges to buckle up in one day.”
By taking pre- and post-surveys of over 1,000 students, EAST members could be sure that they made an impact. With just four weeks in between the two counts, seat belt usage increased by 13 percent. On behalf of the National Organization for Youth Safety (NOYS) and the National Road Safety Foundation, Har-Ber won the Seat Belts Save Challenge for Best Overall Education Campaign in Fall 2015.
In support of seat belt usage, Har-Ber participated in a Safe Teen Driving Coalition meeting by the Arkansas Children’s Hospital Injury Prevention Center, conducted the #buckleup social media campaign, and partnered with the state and local police and fire department. Other partnerships involved FADD (Families Against Distracted Driving), SRO’s (Student Resource Officers), the Driving Academy of Northwest Arkansas, and more. Har-Ber EAST students have also expanded to J.O. Kelly Middle School, including them in activities such as the safe driving fair.