Trauma services encourages teens to buckle up
For three years, Heather Heil has helped a Missouri Department of Transportation committee teach Missouri high school students the importance of seatbelt safety. Seatbelt usage for Missouri teenagers is 66 percent, which is quite low says Heil, injury prevention outreach coordinator for trauma services at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. Heil says she’s concerned because, in some cases, wearing a seatbelt can be the difference between life and death.
“Our efforts in educating individuals about seatbelt safety will prevent future trauma patients,” says Heil. “Step one is always wearing your seatbelt and step two is not being distracted.”
Along with educating Barnes-Jewish team members about seatbelt safety, Heil works with MoDOT to improve seatbelt safety among teenagers. Heil is director of the St. Louis region of Battle of the Belt, an annual high school competition between Missouri schools, which is one of the programs used to help increase seatbelt usage and awareness.
“We appreciate the hospital staff being involved because since they treat injuries caused by a lack of seatbelt usage, they have a different perspective on seatbelt safety,” says Carrie Wolken, youth program coordinator at MoDOT and statewide coordinator of Battle of the Belt.
All Missouri high schools are welcome to compete in Battle of the Belt and the program is designed to help teenagers encourage each other to wear their seat belts. The program is organized by the students, and poster campaigns and public service announcements are created to support their efforts.
“Some of the students at the different high schools stand outside their school and note which students are wearing their seatbelts,” says Heil. “It’s a team effort and the students know they’re competing with other Missouri schools.”
This year, the St. Louis region won the PSA competitions. Washington and Pattonville high schools were PSA winners. Christian Brothers College High School won first place for the highest percentage of seatbelt usage and Pattonville won for most improved seat belt usage. The high schools were awarded checks ranging from $200 to $500 and 11 schools received awards.
“If we can help save one person’s life a year, then it’s worth the program,” says Heil.