MILFORD — An all-girl team from Milford High School has claimed the 2013 state championship in the Buckle Up New Hampshire Coalition’s annual Seat Belt Challenge.
According to Milford Police Officer Mark Pepler, who worked with the five-student team from the high school during the challenge, the girls beat 10 teams on the school level, competing against their lassmates.
The competition calls for teams of four students to play a game of musical chairs, said Milford Police Capt. Chris Nervik. When the race started, all four students have to take a seat in the car and put their seatbelts on. Then they have to jump out and race around the car, putting on and taking off their seatbelts in each seat. Each of the four students must have a turn in the driver’s seat as they race the clock to get in and out of their seatbelts quickly.
Each team gets three tries to better their time. In between each round, students have to answer a series of questions about driver safety, said Pepler, who works primarily with juveniles in Milford.
After besting their classmates at Milford High School, the students — Meghan Tyrell, Angelena Leal, Adelle Pitsas and Miranda Couture — traveled to Police Standards and Training along with their coach and science teacher Gretchen Klene, and Pepler, who brought a police cruiser for the competition. A fifth member of the team, Hannah Soucy, couldn’t attend the competition, Klene said.
The first round was tough for the girls, said Pepler, as they competed against students from 27 other New Hampshire High Schools. But after a pep talk from the officer, the girls hit their stride, beating out Bow High School, which came in second, and Somersworth, which claimed third place.
Pepler said the competition is designed to raise awareness at the high school level of the importance of wearing seatbelts. “We’ve seen too many accidents where seatbelts could have saved lives or lessened the severity of injuries,” said Pepler. “Putting on your seatbelt takes two seconds, and it’s one of the few things we can actually control when we get in a car.”
Kids today know they should wear their seatbelts, and many of them do, but something happens in the teen years where suddenly they forget, said Nervik. The routine falls away, often because the kids are caught up in their hectic schedules and they just forget.
But another problem is that parents often forget to wear their seatbelts as well and don’t enforce the rule.
“I wouldn’t even start a car with kids in it if they weren’t all buckled in,” said Pepler.