Northern Colorado schools get more money for more seat belts

Alexa’s Hugs foundations awards $2,600


A tragic death of a 19-year-old three years ago is fueling a movement that is boosting seat belt use among teens in northern Colorado.

The nonprofit Alexa’s Hugs awarded a total of $2,600 to eight high schools in Larimer and Weld counties earlier this month for successfully spreading the word about buckling up.

Across each of the 10 participating schools there was a total 11.5 percent improvement in seat belt usage, according to the founders of Alexa’s Hugs, Jona and Tad Johnson.

“We are thrilled with the results that we are seeing, always knowing that there is room for improvement,” said Tad Johnson.

Their daughter, 19-year-old Alexa, died Feb. 10, 201,3 after she lost controls of a Ford F-150 pickup while traveling southbound on Interstate 25 near Longmont. The vehicle overturned and she was ejected — her body was found 103 from the pickup’s cab.

Alexa might have survived the crash had she worn her seat belt. Her death prompted the Johnsons to start Alexa’s Hugs and the Seat Belt Challenge, which awards schools for pushing more seat belt awareness in local classrooms.

Each of the eight schools, spanning six school districts, accepted the Seat Belt Challenge in fall 2015.

Staff and volunteers for Alexa’s Hugs conducted unannounced, anonymous seat belt observations at local high schools at the end of the school day. All passengers — parents and teens alike — were included in the observations at the beginning of the year.

A leadership team at each school then developed and carried out a plan to educate their peers about vehicle safety and to encourage seat belt use and safe driving conditions.

Another round of observations were conducted at the end of the school year.

The result was an increase in seat belt use, say the Johnsons.

“When it comes to driving, that includes the good and the bad, so we want to focus on the positive and provide that encouragement for overall safe driving,” Jona Johnson said in a news release.

The individual awards went as high as $500, with Highland High School netting $500 for a 25.5 percent improvement in seat belt usage. Roosevelt High School was awarded $100 for virtually eliminating cell phone distractions during the spring observation.

Alexa’s Hugs collaborated with Safe Kids Larimer County to provide the program, with help from a Colorado Department of Transportation grant. Ford Driving Skills for life provided funding for the award money.

Read the Denver Post article

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