More than 1,500 local high school students have pledged to buckle up as part of the first-ever “Put It Together” (PIT) program. Recently, students from Heritage, Loudoun County and Tuscarora high schools competed to see which school could generate the most student participation and safety belt usage.
The safety campaign was a collaborative effort between the Leesburg Police Department and Virginia State Police. Post-survey results indicate a 14 percent improvement in students choosing to wear safety belts, bringing the overall compliance rate up to 77.4 percent.
Before the week-long program, seatbelt usage among the students was as low as 66 percent.
“We still have a lot to do, as 77 percent still indicates significant room for improvement,” said First Sgt. A.D. Blankenship, Loudoun County area commander for the State Police. “However,the creativity and dedication put forth by these students in just one week was more than we ever anticipated. All of the students, their parents, and the high schools’ faculty and staff are to be applauded for their outstanding participation.”
The students’ promotional efforts spanned from a “White-Out Ghost Day” to “YOLO” (You Only Live Once) wristbands to having seat-belt relays to buckle up safety T-shirt designs.
Heritage High School, which had the most participation overall, had 899 students and staff sign the PIT pledge cards.
“The efforts put forth by the students and staff at the three schools was outstanding," said Lt. Jeff Dubé of the Leesburg Police Department. "While the three schools competed against each other, the true winners were all of the students who pledged to buckle up every time. We hope to make this an annual competition that is both educational and fun to participate in."
Through a scoring process based on which individual students made the most significant contributions to promoting the PIT campaign within his or her school, the following teens were selected to be awarded $500 scholarships:
• Heritage High School, Nailah Phillips
• Loudoun County High School, Mitchell Stevens
• Tuscarora High School, Kaylie Etheridge
The scholarship winners were honored by Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) Superintendent Edgar B. Hatrick III during a ceremony at the School Administrative Offices in Ashburn. One Heritage High School student was also recognized for buckling up and saving his life.
“If it wasn’t for your advice during the seat belt challenge, I would not be alive today,” J.J. Engelbrecht said.