Photo/Story Gallery 2003

FHP Announces Battle of the Belts Challenge

Sergeant Branham helps out her new buddy at one of the Kids & Cops exhibits.The Florida Highway Patrol issued a challenge to Nassau County High School students to participate in this year’s Battle of The Belts, an on-going seat belt awareness campaign conducted across Florida throughout the year – with special emphasis during select months.

Pictured: High school principals get it on! (L to R) Rick Keffer (sponsor), Vince, Scott Hodges (Fernandina Beach Vice Principal), Dale Braddock (Hilliard Principal), Troy Arnold (West Nassau Principal), Larry, Jamie Clark (sponsor), Lt. Bill Leeper (FHP).

At the beginning of the month, a special news conference was held in Callahan at West Nassau High School’s main entrance to kick off the contest. Participants include high school principals from each area school, Nassau County’s School Superintendent, Dr. John Ruis, sponsors Ron Anderson, Paul Clark and Rick Keffer, Lt. Bill Leeper, Troop G Public Affairs Officer, and other members of the Florida Highway Patrol.

Battle of the Belts logoSafety campaigns, such as the Battle of the Belts, that target young drivers are crucial considering that motor vehicle crashes are the #1 killer of teenagers, 15-20 years old. In 2001, 42,797 teenage drivers were involved in traffic crashes in Florida with 30,129 teens injured and 282 killed. For the past two years in Nassau County, 73% of those killed in automobile crashes had seat belts available, but were not using them. The simple click of a seat belt could have prevented many of these tragedies.

This year’s Battle of The Belts, a tough, but friendly competition, pits area public high schools against one another to determine which one has the highest seat belt usage rate. The competition is designed to challenge student drivers and passengers to wear their seat belts. The contest encourages students to beat out the competition and buckle up. Each school is responsible for conducting its own safety awareness campaign to increase the safety belt usage rate during the specified time frame. Initial surveys indicate that Fernandina Beach High School has a 36% usage rate, West Nassau High School a 32% usage rate and Hilliard High School a 30% usage rate.

Over the next few weeks, the Florida Highway Patrol will be conducting random seat belt surveys of vehicles entering and leaving the three school campuses. The high schools with the “Highest Usage Rate” and “Most Improved Usage Rate” will be awarded a certificate from FHP, along with a cash award provided by Ron Anderson Chevrolet-Pontiac-Buick-GMC, Paul Clark Ford-Mercury, and Rick Keffer Dodge-Chrysler-Jeep to be used for direct student-related activities. The winning school will be announced in November 2003.