Racing for safety at Mohonasen

Students dashed through a parking lot at Mohonasen High School as they raced each other to see who could buckle their seatbelts the fastest in a parked minivan. It sounds silly, but there was meaning behind it.

The Battle of the Belts competition is part of the Sean Patrick French Memorial Run. The run is held each year in memory of Sean Patrick French, who was 17 years old when he died in a fatal drunk driving accident on New Year's Day in 2002. The money raised from the event goes to school organizations that run programs to combat underage drinking, impaired driving and encourage seatbelt use, as well as scholarship funds for college-bound students.

The concept came from having a fun way of making sure that you put that message out there that putting your seatbelt on every time is important, said Eileen French, Mohonasen Central School District Board of Education president and an aunt of Sean French.

On Thursday, April 9, Mohonasen Central School District students to faculty to police officers competed in the Battle of the Belts. According to McKenzie Aviza, a senior at Mohonasen High School and the president of SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions), who sponsored the event, a group of Mohonasen High School sophomores won, and are moving on to compete in the World Championship later this year. It will be held as part of The Sean Patrick French Memorial Run on Sunday, April 25, at the Chatham High School.

"So often we see accidents " whether they're tragic because of a drunk driving accident or whether it's just an accident that takes place " that cause some injury to someone who wasn't wearing a seatbelt," said French.

The concept of Battle of the Belts is simple. Teams of four see who can buckle up the fastest. To start, the team runs from a starting line to a four-door car (a total of 15 feet) " team members get into the car, buckle up, and then throw their hands in the air until a referee shouts "rotate!" The process continues until all four members have sat in all four seats of the car (moving in a counterclockwise rotation), buckling up each time. The team with the fastest time is the winner.

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