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Buckle up; set a good example

March 9, 2008
By Katie Cuppett
When I was little, my mom gave me the nickname “Little Houdini.”

Just like the famous escape artist of the early 20th century, I had a mysterious way of escaping from my car seat and seat belt as a child.

No matter how many times my mother pulled over to strap me back in and no matter how many different restraining devices she would try, I always found a way to break free so that I could crawl around the back seat.

Even as I grew up, I was reluctant to fasten my seat belt because I thought it was uncomfortable.

And then I remember the very moment when I decided to always wear my seat belt.

My older neighbor, who would baby-sit me frequently, was in a horrible car accident. She was not wearing her seat belt.

She swerved to miss a deer and hit a nearby tree.

Fortunately, my neighbor was not killed. However, she did suffer a head injury and internal bleeding.

After many weeks of recovery, I was finally able to see my favorite baby sitter, but I also learned a very important lesson: Buckle up.

It took a horrible accident to finally convince me to fasten my seat belt. Please don’t wait for a scare tactic to convince your children to do the same.

Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death for children ages 2 to 14, according to the most recent report from the National Center for Health Statistics (2004). Many of those accidents could have been prevented by buckling up.

Create an opportunity to speak with your children about the importance of car safety. They’ll listen. In fact, kids look up to their parents for model behavior, even during the difficult tween years (ages 11-14) when children tend to rebel. This age group proves to be one of the most difficult to reach when addressing car safety habits.

In a report on the relationship between parent and tween seat belt use, 94 percent of tweens wore their seat belts when their parents always wore theirs, compared to only 63 percent when parents do not always wear their seat belts.

Perhaps now is a good time to evaluate your own safety habits.

Tweens are at the stage in their lives when they start to become independent and make their own decisions. However, they also look to their peers to help them define what is normal.

When tweens believe seat belt usage is high, their own usage is high. But when tweens believe seat belt usage is low, their own usage is low, determined a study by the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety.

Make it a point to tell your children and tweens that buckling up is the norm.

Show them that buckling up is the safe and smart thing to do and encourage them to tell others. It could save a life.

While my escape artistry came to an end long ago, don’t let your child be a “Little Houdini.”

For more information about car safety, visit Safe Kids Worldwide at or contact the local Blair County Safe Kids Coalition at 946-7802.

Katie Cuppett, a senior at Penn State majoring in public relations, is an advocate for the Blair County Safe Kids Coalition.

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