Submitted by Rene Carroll
Washougal Police were out in force the morning of November 13 at the Washougal High School parking lot to catch students. Catch them doing good, that is! Students who were found wearing seat belts were rewarded with a $5 gift card from Dutch Bros Coffee. This was a part of the Target Zero Safe Driving Task Force “Click it Bro” program in partnership with Unite! Washougal.
“It feels good to be out here to reward good behavior,” said Washougal School District Resource Officer and WHS Alumni, Kelly Anderson. “It is great to be working with Target Zero on this and reinforce the importance of seat belt use.”
The Target Zero program believes our culture should motivate people to aspire to become safe drivers, in the same way, smoke-free environments are now valued. “We need our culture to embrace, celebrate, and promote the responsibility each of us has to be a safe road user,” said Hillary Torres, Region 6 Target Zero Manager. “When we reach this place, being a safe driver will not only be important for our own self-esteem and sense of belonging, but it will also be the foundation to ensure the safety of our family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues.”
Through a grant from State Farm, Target Zero provided one hundred $5 Dutch Bros certificates for high school drivers “caught doing the right thing” by wearing their seat belts at five area high schools throughout Clark County. Dutch Bros matched this with an additional $500 of gift certificates. These certificates are being given out by School Resource Officers at each location.
“Unite! Washougal is excited to be leading on the organization of this project,” said Margaret McCarthy, Unite! Drug Free Community Program Coordinator. “This is also an excellent way of promoting positive relationships between law enforcement and our youth.” Torres and McCarthy attended statewide prevention training and through discussions, discovered opportunities to work together and are planning to bring several future programs to Washougal.
“A group of WHS ASB students called PEP Unite! are the leaders of this project,” said Megan Kanzler, Unite! Drug Free Community, Youth Engagement Coordinator, Washougal Youth to Youth Advisor and WHS Interact Advisor. “They are a leadership workgroup that is focused on positively engaging people in their community. A part of their work was to collect data on student seatbelt use at the high school before today and then follow up to see if the program helped to change behavior.”
On September 26, PEP Unite! members volunteered to stuff envelopes with the Dutch Brothers certificates and appreciation awards to be distributed by SROs at WHS and other schools. Washougal Mayor and Rotary member, Molly Coston, also volunteered to help. “Steps like Target Zero are moving us in the right direction around safe driving to make our community a better place to live,” Coston said. “I appreciate the idea of saying thank you for positive behavior.”
“It’s all about community,” said Brianna Gonser, WHS Interact President. “It is about being positive and about being safe. All the Target Zero partners have the same mindset and values, which is cool. It is great to notice the positive. The positive does exist and is worth celebrating.”
WHS juniors Olivia Dinnel and Brianna Ruth were stopped on their way into the parking lot as a part of the program. “At first I wondered what the officers were doing and did not know what to expect,” said Ruth. “I think it is really cool that they are giving rewards for wearing seat belts. I think it will work to encourage other students to wear them.”
“We need to collectively make safe driving not just normal, but admirable,” said Torres. “Together we can improve safe driving beliefs and behaviors until we reduce the risk of death and serious injury to zero — because every life counts.”
Target Zero is a call to action. It shakes the roots of the belief that “accidents happen” and that the loss of life and health are acceptable outcomes of driving. Other initiatives they support include signaling, not speeding, and avoiding driving while distracted.