In early 2008, Dave Corp with the Kansas Traffic Safety Office met with me regarding the low seatbelt compliance rate for Crawford County. At the time I was Sheriff of Crawford County and surprised to hear we had the lowest compliance rate of 53% overall and only 61% of teen drivers buckling up. This information came from traffic surveys conducted in 20 of the most populated counties in Kansas.
From that conversation an idea was born and after several meetings with school administrators and students, SAFE (Seatbelts Are For Everyone) was created in all six of the Crawford County high schools serving 1,280 students.
Students quickly bought into the program and essentially built SAFE from the ground up including picking out the name. The pledge card used now statewide was actually designed by a Pittsburg High School student. The students were soon taught how to take the seatbelt survey from the school parking lot and present safety messages to the student body. SAFE soon expanded to other school districts and continues to grow every year.
In 2012, my last year as sheriff before retiring and continuing in my position of Executive Director of the Kansas Sheriffs Association, the teen seatbelt compliance rate in Crawford County had increased to 88%. There were 33 rollover accidents that year involving teen drivers and passengers. Of those 33, only 3 were unbuckled with only 1 reportable injury.
In 2014, the Kansas Sheriffs Association (KSA) adopted SAFE as one of its public safety initiatives which continues today.
Sandy Horton retired as Crawford County Sheriff and is currently the Executive Director of the Kansas Sheriffs Association