Bergen County High Schools Rewarded for Seatbelt Usage in 13th Annual High School Traffic Safety Challenge

January 28, 2016

The Trauma/Surgical Critical Care & Injury Prevention Section of the Department of Surgery at HackensackUMC recently hosted the 13th 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.

“According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every day in the United States, more than nine people are killed and more than 1,100 are injured in crashes that involved a distracted driver and 28 people die each day in the United States from drunk driving related car crashes – more than one per hour,” said John LoCurto, Jr., M.D., FACS, associate chief, Trauma/Surgical Critical Care & Injury Prevention. “Programs like the High School Traffic Safety Challenge help bring the issues of distracted driving, drunk driving and the importance of wearing a seatbelt to light and teach our younger drivers how they can use their brain to protect their body.”

“All of the schools that participated in the Traffic Safety Challenge are helping teens in our community become safer drivers and passengers by increasing seatbelt use and decreasing risky decision making while driving,” said Meliam Gonzales, RN, trauma prevention coordinator and clinical educator at HackensackUMC.  “This year, Matt Maher, a past soccer pro shared his own story.  Matt was convicted of drunk driving after killing a father of six children and was recently released from prison. His presentation was impactful and the audience took away the powerful message to embrace smart decision making and to be accountable for your actions.”

The winners of the Fall High School Traffic Safety Challenge are as follows:

Best Overall Seatbelt Usage
Immaculate Heart Academy, Washington Township

2nd Best Overall Seatbelt Usage
Northern Highlands High School, Allendale

2nd Best Overall Seatbelt Usage
Indian Hills High School, Oakland

Most Improved Seatbelt Usage
Cliffside Park High School

2nd Most Improved Seatbelt Usage
Lodi High School

3rd Most Improved Seatbelt Usage
New Milford High School

Most Improved Back Seatbelt Usage
Bergenfield High School

2nd Most Improved Back Seatbelt Usage
Garfield High School

3rd Most Improved Back Seatbelt Usage
Waldwick High School

Honorable Mention—High Schools with an overall average of 90 percent or above seatbelt use
Emerson HS, Emerson, NJ 95 percent

Ramapo HS, Franklin Lakes, NJ 95 percent

Immaculate Conception HS, Lodi, NJ 90 percent

Honorable Mention—100 percent Driver’s Seatbelt Compliance
Palisades Park High School and Park Ridge High School

Poster Winners
Cresskill High School, Elmwood Park Memorial High School and Immaculate Conception High School

The following high schools also participated and were presented with plaques for their continued commitment to trauma prevention and community education:  Bogota High School, Dumont High School, Fort Lee High School, Leonia High School, Lyndhurst High School, River Dell Regional High School and Saddle Brook High School.

The 2016 grant for HackensackUMC’s High School Traffic Safety Challenge program was also recently approved for a $13,200 grant to continue the program in 2016. For more information about trauma prevention, please contact Meliam Gonzales at 551-996-2672 or

Hackensack University Medical Center recently held the 13th annual Fall High School Traffic Safety Challenge, in which 23 schools in Bergen County participated.  Pictured are (far left) John LoCurto, M.D., FACS, associate chief, Trauma/Surgical Critical Care & Injury Prevention at HackensackUMC and (far right) Meliam Gonzales, RN, trauma prevention coordinator and clinical educator at HackensackUMC along with students and faculty from the schools that were recognized for Best Overall Seatbelt Usage and Honorable Mention – Overall Average of 90 percent or above seatbelt use.  The schools are Immaculate Heart Academy in Washington Township, Northern Highlands High School in Allendale, Indian Hills High School in Oakland, Emerson High School in Emerson, Ramapo High School in Franklin Lakes and Immaculate Conception High School in Lodi.

About Hackensack University Medical Center
HackensackUMC, a 775- bed nonprofit teaching and research hospital located in Bergen County, NJ, is the largest provider of inpatient and outpatient services in the state. Founded in 1888 as the county’s first hospital, it is the flagship hospital of Hackensack University Health Network, one of the largest health networks in the state comprised of 1,717 beds, more than 10,000 team members and 3,300 credentialed physicians. HackensackUMC was listed as the number one hospital in New Jersey in U.S. News & World Report’s 2015-16 Best Hospital rankings – maintaining its place atop the NJ rankings since the rating system was introduced. It was also named one of the top four New York Metro Area hospitals. HackensackUMC is the only hospital in New Jersey, New York and New England to be named one of Healthgrades America’s 50 Best Hospitals™ nine consecutive years, and receive the Healthgrades Distinguished Hospital Award for Clinical Excellence™ 13 years in a row. The medical center is one of the top 25 green hospitals in the country according to Practice Greenhealth, and received 24 Gold Seals of Approval™ by The Joint Commission – more than any other hospital in the country. It was the first hospital in New Jersey and second in the nation to become a Magnet® recognized hospital for nursing excellence; receiving its fifth consecutive designation in 2014. HackensackUMC has created an entire campus of award-winning care, including: the John Theurer Cancer Center; the Heart & Vascular Hospital; and the Sarkis and Siran Gabrellian Women’s and Children’s Pavilion, which houses the Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital and Donna A. Sanzari Women’s Hospital, which was designed with The Deirdre Imus Environmental Health Center and listed on the Green Guide’s list of Top 10 Green Hospitals in the U.S. HackensackUMC is the Hometown Hospital of the New York Giants and the New York Red Bulls and is Official Medical Services Provider to The Barclays PGA Golf Tournament. It remains committed to its community through fundraising and community events. To learn more, visit: