At one time, Crawford County had one of the lowest teen compliance rates for seatbelts in Kansas. In the spring of 2008, Law enforcement officers in Crawford County joined together to visit all of the schools in the county. The plan was to spend two weeks educating the students, followed by two weeks of high visibility seatbelt enforcement. During this process, an idea for a project to increase seatbelt compliance came about.
The Crawford County Sheriff’s Office, led by Sheriff Sandy Horton, in cooperation with the Kansas Highway Patrol (KHP) and Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT), developed a pilot project to increase seatbelt compliance among high school students in Crawford County.
After the core group met to develop the concept and principles, schools were invited to participate and local businesses were contacted for financial support. Nominations were made by students as to what name to give the program. Three different slogans were proposed and by a vote the students selected “Seatbelts Are For Everyone” (SAFE). This acronym, along with the logo, was then adopted by KDOT’s Traffic Safety Section as a state-recognized program.
The first ever SAFE program was started and ran very much like it is today. Unannounced observational seatbelt surveys, pledge cards, prizes, traffic safety education and a springtime enforcement period were all part of the original program.
In April 2009, Sheriff Horton and several students presented the SAFE program and results at a state-wide traffic safety conference in Wichita. The Sheriff and students received a “People Saving People” award for their accomplishments.
In 2014, the SAFE program was adopted by Oklahoma with funding provided by the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office. DCCCA continues to operate SAFE in several states across the midwest.