I clearly remember the first time I wore a seat belt in a vehicle. It was December 1978 and my parents came to pick my siblings and me up after school, to begin the annual road trip to spend Christmas with our grandparents in Calaveras County, California.
As we got ready to pull out of the school parking lot, my dad said, “Buckle up!” He said it nonchalantly, almost as if by rote. We kids looked at each other in confusion, although it was a bit hard to see my younger sister, who was curled in her cozy nest of blankies in the floor space behind the driver’s seat. Stretched out on his customary perch along the back window ledge, my younger brother asked, “What does that mean?” With my back resting against one door and my feet extended along the back seat toward the other door – the birthright of every eldest child – I just shrugged.
But we soon learned what “Buckle up!” meant. My parents, it seemed, had drunk the Flavor-Aid of the safe driving craze that was beginning to sweep the country; we were now becoming buckle-uppers. (And, for the record, have been ever since.)
I thought of this incident the other morning when I dropped my kids off at school, where in addition to Liberty Bell High School principal Crosby Carpenter, who nearly always greets students as they arrive, three law enforcement officers awaited. It was, I learned later, an event designed to support teen driver safe driving.
Okanogan County’s Deputy Laura Wright, Deputy Anthony Coble and Target Zero Manager Eveline Roy orchestrated the event. “We stood in front of the junior/senior high school and watched to see who came into the parking lot wearing a seat belt, not talking or texting on their phone, and driving safely,” says Wright. “If we saw they were practicing safe habits we commended them and provided them an entry form for the chance to win one of three Amazon gift cards.”
Unsurprisingly, some students were initially a bit alarmed by the law enforcement presence. “They assumed we were contacting them for violations,” says Wright. “They were happy to hear of the positive reinforcement from us and very happy to put their names in for the drawing.” Junior Cymone Van Marter and sophomore Elizabeth Clark each won $50 gift cards, while sophomore Caitlyn Cooley won a card worth $139 – the exact amount she would save by not being issued a $139 infraction for any of the violations above, says Wright.
Of the event, which was sponsored by State Farm Insurance, Wright says “Love the community interaction!” And, answering a question posed by many of us who thought Deputy Wright had wrapped up her career in law enforcement two years ago, Wright adds, “Glad I’m not retired anymore!” She’s now the Chief Criminal Deputy for the county. Buckle up, folks!