The Leesburg Police Department and Virginia State Police are challenging the town’s 2,932 high school students to “put it together” in order to save lives and reduce traffic deaths and injuries resulting from a lack of seat belt usage.
Heritage, Loudoun County and Tuscarora High schools will be competing with one another the week of May 14 to see which school has the most participation in the community’s first-ever seat belt safety campaign.
“When we discovered that seat belt usage among teen drivers and passengers in Leesburg was as low as 66.7 percent, we knew we had to reach out and engage these students,” said First Sergeant A.D. Blankenship, Loudoun County Area Commander. “Their lives depend on it.”
The Put It Together (PIT) challenge consists of three elements:
1. Pre-survey of seat belt usage at each school by law enforcement
2. Educational programs conducted within each school and the community by students from each school
3. Post survey of seat belt usage at each school by law enforcement
Thanks to the generosity of area merchants, participating students will be able to redeem prizes and take advantage of special discounts when they present a PIT Buckle Up Pledge Card.
In addition, a scholarship will be made available to the student at each of the three schools who makes a significant contribution to promoting the PIT campaign within his or her school.
“The merchants and school administrations have been very helpful with our challenge and we hope the students and the community embrace this effort to increase seat belt usage,” said Lt. Jeff Dubé of the Leesburg Police Department.
“This is a very dangerous time of the year for our young drivers,” Blankenship said. “Graduation, prom and the new adventures and challenges that await each of our students as they head into the summer months require increased driving activity. We want to provide them the necessary information to make the right decision about using safety belts as both drivers and passengers.”
Seat belt usage was only 81.1 percent among all drivers and passengers on Virginia’s highways in 2011. National statistics show safety belts reduce the likelihood of fatal or serious injuries by 50 percent. On a national basis, each 10-percent increase in safety belt use results in 30,000 fewer serious and moderate injuries and a savings of approximately $800-million in direct costs to society. And, drivers wearing seat belts have more control over their car in emergency situations, so are therefore more likely to avoid an accident.
The campaign timeframe leads up to the statewide May 21 to June 3 “Click It or Ticket” enforcement and mobilization wave aimed at increasing seat belt usage rates among drivers and passengers of all ages.
On June 1, the overall winning school will be selected by a panel of judges based on a point-scoring process. AAA Mid-Atlantic and Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) are also assisting with the PIT challenge.