State Highway Safety Showcase
Rural Teen Belt Use - Michigan State University 4-H Safety Belt Program
Crash data analysis indicates both programming and communications efforts should be focused in rural areas. Although fewer roadway miles are logged on rural roads, the death rate remains high. This is due largely to the nature of these roads and the types of crashes that occur. In most cases, these are two-lane roads. Vehicles leaving the roadway often strike trees or vehicles crossing the center line can strike oncoming traffic. Further, crashes tend to be high speed.
One important means to address rural traffic safety issues is to encourage safety belt use.
A 4-H participant explains the importance of wearing your seat belt to a group of rural children.
The Michigan Office Highway Safety Planning (OHSP) launched a first-time safety belt program for rural adolescents and teens through Michigan State University's 4-H Youth Program. MSU 4-H coordinates 4-H chapters statewide, mainly in rural areas. This partnership sought to increase safety belt use among adolescents and teens through educational and engaging hands-on activities.
During the first two years, safety belt educational activities were focused in four counties with teens leading safety belt-themed activities that ultimately reached thousands of youth and teens.
In a third year, regional training classes allow the program to expand to twenty-three counties. The 4-H groups made presentations to groups including Future Farmers of America (FFA) clubs, health departments, and law enforcement agencies.
MSU 4-H produced program toolkits to promote the safety belt program to the eighty-three county 4-H offices. The toolkit contained lesson plans for safety belt education, handouts, an issue of "Buckle Up" magazine, and material ordering information.
The MSU 4-H safety belt program allowed OHSP to establish new in-roads into rural communities through the established 4-H organization. Pre and post surveys showed the teen educators were far more likely to "always wear safety belts." Also, 84 percent of the teens feel that their driving habits have improved since working with the program.
To date, the MSU 4-H Safety Belt Program has reached approximately 7,600 youth ages 8-12 years old, as well as over 600 teens with the safety belt message.
- Janet Olsen, Program Leader
Michigan State University
Michigan 4-H Youth Development
160 Agriculture Hall
East Lansing, MI 48824