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Bergen County High Schools Rewarded for Seatbelt Usage in 14th Annual High School Traffic Safety Challenge
Story Number is : 031217133
Hackensack University Medical Center

Among those pictured are the first and second place winners of the most improved back seatbelt usage award. Back row, L to R: John LoCurto, Jr., M.D., FACS, associate chief, Trauma/Surgical Critical Care & Injury Prevention at HackensackUMC; Tammy Felton, State Farm; Cindy Bergen, State Farm; Randy Lloyd, State Farm; and Anita DaSilva, State Farm. Middle row, L to R: Emily Ringen, Lyndhurst High School; Julian Domingo, Westwood High School; Vivek Varghese, Westwood High School; Trent Furman, Westwood High School, Xavier Landers, Westwood High School; and Andrew Camporeale, Westwood High School. Front row, L to R: Dejua Nunez, Westwood High School, Madison Murphy, Westwood High School, Meliam Gonzales, RN, Trauma Prevention coordinator and clinical educator at HackensackUMC; and Mike Attanasio, Westwood High School.
Music mogul, Leland Robinson, Sr., of Sugar Hill Records, was presented with The Legend Award by Board Trustee Thomas M. Jackson at the 9th Annual Heart & Soul Music Fest at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center.
The Trauma/Surgical Critical Care and Injury Prevention Section of the Department of Surgery at HackensackUMC, part of the Hackensack Meridian Health family, recently hosted the 14th Annual Fall “High School Traffic Safety Challenge” seatbelt program awards ceremony. More than 200 student representatives and teachers from 23 Bergen County high schools attended. This program was developed by the Drive Smart Foundation and funded with a grant from State Farm.

“Trauma is the greatest killer of people under the age of 44,” said John J. LoCurto, Jr., M.D., FACS, associate chief, Trauma/Surgical Critical Care and Injury Prevention at HackensackUMC. “Whether it is the failure to not wear a seatbelt or a pedestrian struck by a car, the years of lost life are greater than AIDS, heart disease and cancer combined. It costs us almost $900 billion dollars a year in deaths and disabilities.”

“The teens who participate in the HS Traffic Safety Challenge greatly benefit from this program, because it teaches them the importance of becoming safer drivers and passengers,” said Meliam Gonzales, RN, Trauma, prevention coordinator and clinical educator at HackensackUMC. “The teens learn why it’s imperative to wear their seatbelt and to avoid distractions, such as texting and talking on their phone while driving and not to speed or drink and drive. Overall, the students are realizing you really have to use your head in order to protect your body.”

Helping to drive home the message was the event’s featured speaker, Sgt. Bruce Miller of the Hudson County Sheriff’s Office Crash Investigation Unit.

“According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration 93 to 94 percent of all pedestrian-vehicle collisions are avoidable at some point by one or more people involved,” said Sgt. Miller. “Speed and distracted driving are the predominate reasons. More people are killed by cars than by all forms of violent crime combined. The slower you drive, the greater the chance you have to survive an accident and to limit the amount of damage caused by the crash.”

The winners of the Fall High School Traffic Safety Challenge are as follows:
Most Improved Back Seatbelt Usage
1st Place Westwood High School
2nd Place Lyndhurst High School
3rd Place (tie)
Cliffside Park High School
Elmwood Park High School

Most Improved Seatbelt Usage
1st Place Dumont High School
2nd Place Lodi High School
3rd Place Park Ridge High School

Best Overall Seatbelt Usage
1st Place (tie)

Immaculate Heart Academy, Washington Township
Indian Hills High School, Oakland
Honorable Mention 90 percent or above Overall Seatbelt Use:
Northern Highlands High School, Allendale
Emerson High School
Bergenfield High School
Riverdell High School
Waldwick High School
Immaculate Conception High School, Lodi
Ramapo High School, Franklin Lakes

Poster Winners

Cresskill High School, Immaculate Conception, Leonia High School and Ramapo High School

Dr. LoCurto finished his presentation by telling the students that distracted driving kills approximately nine people a day. He offered additional sobering statics regarding drunk driving.

“Last year in the United States, more than 32,000 people died in automobile related crashes,” said Dr. LoCurto. “Every day, 28 people died because of drunk driving crashes. It is an astonishing statistic that 58% of convicted drunk drivers will continue to drive drunk without a license. And, a drunk driver will drive approximately 80 times drunk before they are arrested. I encourage you to share what you’ve learned here with your classmates, family and friends. You just might save a life.”
The following high schools also participated and were presented with plaques for their continued commitment to trauma prevention and community education: Bogota High School, Fort Lee High School, New Milford High School, Palisades Park High School and Saddle Brook High School. For more information about trauma prevention, please contact Meliam Gonzales at 551-996-2672 or

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