MIAMI COUNTY — Miami County Public Health is leading the way to keep students, as well as all motorists, safe throughout the county with the Miami County Safe Communities Coalition’s first county-wide schools seat belt safety challenge.
On Tuesday, MCPH’s health education and safe communities coordinator Kari Boyle awarded Miami East High School representatives the first award of the initiative. Miami East High School earned a 97.2 percent seat belt compliance for the first year of the challenge.
Miami East High School FFA President Emma Linn, a junior, shared how the school’s local chapter hosts a seat belt safety challenge to remind students to buckle up before and after school each fall.
“It’s very important to advocate the safety awareness. This event helped contribute to the awareness to our students. It will be very beneficial,” Linn said.
Linn shared how the FFA chapter hosts a seat belt check as part of its fall farm safety week, which she said helps contribute to the district winning the award this spring.
“Overall, it advocates that safety is very important and this event helps emphasize (the message),” Linn said.
Miami East High School Principal Todd Gentis said student safety is a priority at the rural school.
“I feel it is part of my job as a principal to stress safety to our students. We have a lot of back roads in our school district so we do stress that to our kids,” Gentis said.
Gentis said he reminds students to be safe through social media throughout the year.
Miami County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Dave Duchak said law enforcement was happy to partner with the public health department and other agencies to kick off the campaign to keep Miami County motorists safe.
“It’s extremely important as we start the summer driving season,” Duchak said. “We are all partners in safety … it’s a total community effort to have as safe a summer and safe year as we can in Miami County. We in law enforcement are going to be out there to try and make sure the community has safe travel this summer.”
Boyle received a grant to reinstate the program in Miami County, which has more than 30 community agencies to form the Miami County Safe Communities Coalition.
“Our big first event was the school seat belt challenge. It was great to have all 11 schools participate,” Boyle said. “All the schools were great to work with.”
The first seat belt challenge results were: Miami East High School earned 97.2 percent; Troy Christian 96.8 percent; Tipp City 91.8 percent; Bethel 88.8 percent, Bradford 88.0 percent; Piqua 87.7 percent; Covington 87.4 percent; Troy 87.0 percent; Milton-Union 79.7 percent; Newton 76.7 percent; and Upper Valley Career Center 64.9 percent.
The plaque will travel to each school that has the highest percentage of seat belt checks. The checks are a surprise with community members and law enforcement stopping vehicles as they enter school property.
Summer safety checks
Troy’s branch of AAA offers free child safety seats for those in need after they complete a class. The AAA was at the Walmart parking lot Tuesday afternoon as part of the campaign holding free child safety seat checks. According to AAA representative Tricia Studebaker, child safety seats expire after six years.
AAA Public Affairs Manager Cindy Antrican said AAA technicians have found three out of four child safety seats are incorrectly installed and encourages parents and guardians to have them checked.
“If you aren’t using (child safety seats) correctly, your more precious cargo is not safe,” Antrican said.
Local motorists can have their vehicles inspected at the Huber Heights location before they hit the road for summer vacations.
“People can get free vehicle maintenance inspections at the Huber Heights location. You don’t need to be a member. Although we are all excited about summer vacations and we are all ready to go — make sure your vehicle is ready to go,” Antrican said. “There’s nothing worse than being stranded on the side of the road — and yes we’ll have people ready to come help you, but that’s not how you want to spend your vacation and family time.”
AAA forecasts nearly 34 million (89 percent) holiday travelers will drive to their Memorial Day destinations, an increase of 2.1 percent over last year as a result of lower gas prices. AAA expects most U.S. drivers will pay the lowest Memorial Day gas prices since 2005. According to a recent AAA survey, 55 percent of Americans say they are more likely to take a road trip this year due to lower gas prices.
Reach Melanie Yingst at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @Troydailynews