In October, Beydler, a 16-year-old sophomore at Sikeston Senior High School, was in a car accident. She suffered from a severe concussion and had to receive stitches in her head. Her car was totaled, but she was alive because she was wearing her seat belt -- a sentiment she soon began sharing with her friends.
"You never know what's going to happen," Beydler said. "I always thought, 'That won't happen to me.' But it did."
The state competition, called Restrain Yourself, challenged high school students across the state to use their creativity to develop an original 30-
second public service announcement that convinces their peers to buckle up every time they are in a vehicle.
Beydler teamed up with senior Michael Sansagraw, who was already taking a video production course, to use Beydler's real-life experience as the basis for their PSA.
Beydler and Sansagraw worked on their entry a few days before the Oct. 31 deadline. After taping the PSA, the two spent about five hours one day editing their project, Beydler recalled.
Beydler helped with writing the script and acted in the PSA; Sansagraw taped and edited the announcement.
Last month the students learned their video entry received the grand prize in the entire state. As grand prize winners, Beydler and Sansagraw each received $1,000. SCTC also received $1,000.
"It was a lot of fun and a good learning experience," said 18-year-old Sansagraw, who is the son of son of Michael and April Sansagraw of Sikeston. Within the 30-second announcement, Beydler introduces herself to viewers as the sophomore class president, No. 1 in her class and center for the varsity volleyball team. Viewers then see an image of Beydler's car after it was struck broadside, inches from where she sat with her seat belt on.
Beydler goes on to say: "That's my habit -- whether I'm driving or riding, I belt up. My volleyball season was cut short, but my life wasn't. I'll play again next season because I took an extra moment to click -- will you?"
Beydler is the daughter of Steve and Dee Beydler of Sikeston. Steve Beydler also serves as a television production instructor at Sikeston Career and Technology Center and instructed his students to participate in the competition as a class assignment.
As a result, another Sikeston student was honored for his PSA entry. Senior Nick Nielsen received special recognition for his video, receiving a trophy and a certificate of recognition.
"It started out as a class project, and I didn't really try. If I would've known I'd make the top 15 in the state, I probably would've tried harder," said Nielsen, who is the son of Dean Nielsen of the state of Texas and Elaine Chandler of Sikeston.
For his PSA, Nielsen used footage from a recent trip to Los Angeles with his brother. In his announcement, Nielsen talks about how he and his brother always ride around and the result of not wearing a seat belt.
The contest was prompted by the alarming results of a recent teen safety belt survey, which found safety belt use among Missouri teens is an alarming 56 percent. This usage rate is dramatically lower than Missouri's overall safety belt usage rate of 77 percent.
Young drivers represent 11 percent of licensed drivers and were involved in 29 percent of the traffic crashes in 2004, according to the 2004 Traffic Safety Compendium, produced by the Statistical Analysis Center of the Missouri State Highway Patrol.
A total of 139 entries were submitted by 399 students across the state. Entries didn't have to be a video; storyboard concepts were also accepted. Steve Beydler said 15 entries were submitted from his video production class at SCTC.
Sponsors for the contest include the Missouri Department of Transportation, Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety, Missouri State Medical Association, Missouri Safety Council and State Farm Insurance.
"We had a lot of great work," Beydler said, adding he thought some of his students' work was as good as the other finalists.
Jackie Rogers, MoDOT Highway Safety Division. noted she was impressed with the students' entries.
"They did a great job and we really didn't have an idea of what to expect," Rogers said.
Individual television stations decide if and when they want to run the PSAs, Rogers said.
Meanwhile, the students haven't had any trouble deciding how to spend their winnings. Sansagraw said he will use his winnings to buy a transmission for his car (it went out only days before Christmas). Rachel Beydler purchased a cell phone, some Christmas presents and opened a checking account.
And the school's money went to the video production course and assisted with the purchase of two monitors, Steve Beydler said.
Although his daughter's wreck is a day Steve Beydler doesn't want to relive, he is glad for one thing. He said: "It's nice to have something good happen out of something bad."