Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Reggie Edwards watches as one of four
life-sized dummies is ejected from the rollover simulator he operates at
Lecanto High School. The trooper spoke to students about the importance
of wearing seat belts and the consequences of not wearing them.
Photo by Matthew Beck
As part of this year’s annual Battle of the Belts competitions held at Florida high schools all across the state, Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Reggie Edwards told students that wearing seat belts is the one thing students can do to help save their own lives in a crash. He also stressed that drinking and driving was a gamble they did not want to take. "Don't let these friends you have now destroy you. You want to be around 30 years from now," Edwards said.
Edwards spoke to Lecanto High School students Thursday as part of the Battle of the Belts contest between three local high schools in the Tampa Bay area. Edwards told students during his presentations that if they know someone has been drinking, don’t ride with them. "You need to have the guts to speak up," Edwards said. "Everyone suffers when one person decides to drink and drive."
Trooper Edwards uses one of FHP’s popular rollover simulators to show students what can happen when a vehicle rolls over and the people inside are not wearing seatbelts. Within seconds, the dummies are ejected from the vehicle.
Ken Perez, a traffic crash analyst for the Citrus County Sheriff's Office and a member of the Community Traffic Safety Team, was one of the people who felt it was necessary to bring the demonstration to Citrus County. As part of the safety team, he said he saw the demonstration being done in counties south of Citrus and decided to have it come here. FHP was glad to participate in this important effort."It's something I think the students need to see," Perez said.
As part of the Battle of the Belts competition, a seat belt survey was conducted at the schools. As students pulled into their school parking lots, numbers were tallied to see how many students were wearing seatbelts and how many were not. After the weeklong demonstration, another survey will be conducted to count the use of seat belts again. Whichever school has the best average at the end of the week will win.
Last year, Citrus High School won the challenge. The school received money, which they put toward activities. This year, the winner will receive a plaque with the name of the school etched on it.
Trooper Edwards has been doing rollover demonstrations and seat belt safety presentations for nearly ten years. The reason he does these demonstrations at this time of the year is because he said many high school students party at this time of the year during prom and graduation. And even though he knows some kids will still drink and drive or not wear their seatbelts, he hopes at least one student will listen to his message and make the right choices. "The best part is hoping that something I have said positively influences another person’s life," Edwards said.
He also encourages parents to be more proactive in watching their children by knowing where their kids are and what they are doing. "The big picture is to make sure kids make it into adulthood – get from here to down the road safe and sound."