State and local police recognized Leesburg area high school students Friday for their participation in a public safety campaign to increase awareness about seatbelt safety.
The Put it Together Challenge, in its second year, placed students from Heritage, Loudoun County and Tuscarora high schools in a competition to see which school could generate the most student participation and safety belt usage.
This year, Heritage won.
Virginia State Police Sgt. Alvin D. Blankenship said the campaign provides “an excellent opportunity to reach young student drivers with this message.” The idea is that students are more likely to follow the advice of their peers.
“This ranks as one of the most satisfying programs I have been involved with,” Leesburg Police Lt. Jeff Dubé of the Leesburg Police Department said as he thanked all of the students for their participation.
Sadly, Friday’s ceremony came with an unfortunate local example.
“One of the reasons why we are here is to recognize Michael Murphy Schmelzinger, age 17, of Manassas, who this week struck a tree and died,” Blankenship said. “He was not wearing a seatbelt.”
Also coinciding with the Put It Together campaign was the release of the Governors Highway Safety Commission report showing a 19 percent increase in teenage driver deaths during the first six months of 2012.
In 2011, 306 unbuckled people in Virginia died and another 4,352 were injured in traffic crashes.