Newswise — December 10, 2019 – Hackensack, NJ – Students and teachers from 24 New Jersey high schools and others dedicated to safe driving gathered at Hackensack University Medical Center to celebrate the winners of the 17th Annual "Fall High School Traffic Safety Challenge" seatbelt program awards, hosted by the hospital's Trauma/Surgical Critical Care & Injury Prevention Section of the Department of Surgery. The fall challenge was designed to help teens become safer drivers and passengers by encouraging the use of seat belts in both the front and back seats as well as avoiding risky driving behaviors, such as texting or talking on a handheld phone while driving, speeding and drinking and driving. The program was developed by the Drive Smart Foundation and is funded with a grant from State Farm insurance company. 

"It's gratifying to see our high school students becoming better drivers and passengers, which will have a significant impact on road safety in New Jersey," said Meliam Gonzales, MSN, RN, Trauma Prevention Coordinator & Clinical Educator and Safe Kids Bergen County Coalition Coordinator in the Trauma/Surgical Critical Care & Injury Prevention Section at Hackensack University Medical Center. This year, the program featured two unannounced seatbelt checks. During the first one, 83% of students were found to be wearing seatbelts, a number which rose to 88% at the second unannounced seatbelt check. "We were able to increase our cumulative rate by 5%, which is both significant and exciting due to your hard work," Ms. Gonzales told the audience at the awards ceremony. "Congratulations to all on a job well done!"

“Trauma is the greatest killer of people under the age of 44,” said Sanjeev Kaul, MD, FACS, chief Trauma/Surgical Critical Care & Injury Prevention Section. 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.”

The winners of the 2019 Fall High School Traffic Safety Challenge were as follows:


Most Improved Overall Seatbelt Usage

1st Place: Rutherford High School, with an overall increase of 20%

2nd Place: Lodi High School, with an overall increase of 18%


Most Improved Front Seatbelt Usage

1st Place: Cliffside Park High School, with an overall increase of 18%

2nd Place: Palisades Park High School, with an overall increase of 16%


Most Improved Back Seatbelt Usage

1st Place: Garfield High School, with an increase of 27%

2nd Place: North Arlington High School, with an increase of 20%


Best Overall Seatbelt Usage (98% Average)

Northern Highlands High School, Allendale

Ramapo High School, Franklin Lakes

Immaculate Conception High School, Lodi

Park Ridge High School

Immaculate Heart Academy, Washington Township


Schools Recognized for Achieving 90% or Above for Overall Seatbelt Usage

Emerson High School 96%

Lyndhurst High School 95%

Westwood High School 95%

River Dell High School 94%

Midland Park High School 92%


The following schools were recognized for their continued commitment to trauma prevention and community education:

  • Bergenfield High School
  • Bogota High School
  • Cresskill High School
  • Dumont High School
  • Elmwood Park High School
  • Leonia High School
  • New Milford High School
  • Saddle Brook High School


Midland Park High School, Ramapo High School, Palisades Park High School, Immaculate Heart Academy, and Westwood High School were also recognized for their entries to the poster competition.


For more information, contact Mary McGeever, Hackensack University Medical Center Communications and Public Relations Department, at 551-996-1730 (office), 551-795-1675 (cell) or [email protected]


About Hackensack Meridian Health Hackensack University Medical Center


Hackensack Meridian Health Hackensack University Medical Center, a 781-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 now part of the largest, most comprehensive and truly integrated health care network in New Jersey, offering a complete range of medical services, innovative research and life-enhancing care, which is comprised of 35,000 team members and more than 7,000 physicians. Hackensack University Medical Center is ranked #2 in New Jersey and #59 in the country in U.S. News & World Report’s 2019-20 Best Hospital rankings and is ranked high-performing in the U.S. in  colon cancer surgery, lung cancer surgery, COPD, heart failure, heart bypass surgery, aortic valve surgery, abdominal aortic aneurysm repair, knee replacement and hip replacement. Out of 4,500 hospitals evaluated, Hackensack is one of only 57 that received a top rating in all nine procedures and conditions. Hackensack University Medical Center is one of only five major academic medical centers in the nation to receive Healthgrades America’s 50 Best Hospitals Award for five or more years in a row. Becker’s Hospital Review recognized Hackensack University Medical Center as one of the 100 Great Hospitals in America 2018. The medical center is one of the top 25 green hospitals in the country according to Practice Greenhealth, and received 26 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 sixth consecutive designation in 2019. Hackensack University Medical Center has created an entire campus of award-winning care, including: John Theurer Cancer Center, a consortium member of the NCI-designated Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive 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. Hackensack University Medical Center is the Hometown Hospital of the New York Giants and the New York Red Bulls and is Official Medical Services Provider to THE NORTHERN TRUST PGA Golf Tournament. It remains committed to its community through fundraising and community events especially the Tackle Kids Cancer Campaign providing much needed research at the Children’s Cancer Institute housed at the Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital. To learn more, visit