By Adam Clay

Alex Rockey hands bus driver Larry Kneisel a buck for being buckled up and safe.

The Ryan Meininger State Farm office, joined by high school students, local law enforcement and emergency service providers from the area were at the Hiawatha Middle School and High School bright and early on Friday morning to reward drivers who had themselves and any passengers buckled up. The “Bucks for Buckles” program, which is sponsored by State Farm, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and the Kansas Department of Transportation, is held in upward of fifty cities across the state, with volunteers handing out a dollar to each car in which all passengers were properly seat-belted in, and educational material to those who were not.

Working along with Meininger’s office were members of the Hiawatha Police Department and Town and Country EMS, along with the HHS Safe Kids students. The crews, manning each entrance to the high school and middle school parking lots, handed out $200, and only a handful of pamphlets to unbuckled drivers.

In Kansas, seat belt use in rural communities is significantly lower than in urban areas, and the shorter the trip, the less likely it is that occupants use seatbelts. A KDOT study shows that children’s use of seatbelts greatly reflects their parents, with numbers coming out at 96 percent of kids fastened in when their parents are also buckled up. Another study showed that motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for 5-24 year olds in the United States, and that the average hospital cost for an unbuckled car crash victims is 50 percent higher than for a belted victim.

“Bucks for Buckles” is held in late August and early September across the state to put seatbelt safety fresh in the minds of as many parents and children as possible, as Labor Day weekend is one of the busiest traffic weekends of the entire year.

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