VIRGINIA

Loudoun students pledge to wear seat belts

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More than 1,500 students in Loudoun County took a safety pledge to wear their seat belts. It's part of a program student JJ Engelbrecht says saved his life.

"From the damage done to my car, all the people at the impound and the people that have seen it and the sheriff said that I should be dead," Engelbrecht says.

Two weeks ago, Engelbrecht was driving to church when he nodded off, crossed into traffic and slammed into another driver head-on.

"I remember hearing the stereotypical crunch you hear when you hear a car accident, and it was really loud," Engelbrecht recalls.

Walking away with only 10 stitches in his knee and two staples in his head, Engelbrecht says there's no question who to thank.

Just weeks before Engelbrecht's crash, Sargent Alvin Blankenship started a "Buckle Up" initiative, daring students at several local high schools, including Engelbrecht's, to step up their seat belt wearing efforts.

"In my 30 years of doing this, this is probably the most gratification I've gotten from any kind of program I've put out there," Blankenship said upon hearing Engelbrecht's story.

The students signed pledge cards and designed wrist bands and t-shirts. Within one week, the number of students wearing seat belts jumped 14 percent.

Out of all the schools taking part, it was Heritage High School that had the most participation, with 899 people signing the buckle up pledge card. The officers behind the program say hearing Engelbrecht's story makes them want to take the program to all Loudoun County schools.

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