Battle of the Belts to encourage teen seatbelt use

Teenage drivers leaving Midway High School on Friday were tracked to see if they were wearing a seatbelt. (Source: Kyle Grainger, WVLT)

MIDWAY, Tenn. (WVLT) -- One by one teenage drivers leaving Midway High School on Friday were tracked to see if they were wearing a seatbelt.

Battle of the Belts Tennessee is a statewide competition between high schools to decrease teen motor vehicle traffic accidents. Drivers have been tracked as they leave school to see how many are wearing a seatbelt.

UT Medical Center's Trauma Coordinator, Debi Tuggle, says a study of trauma patience at level one trauma centers in the state, found that seatbelt usage was down 25% in Tennessee.

"We hope to have increased seatbelt usage and awareness with the students and everyone that comes in contact with the school," said Tuggle. "This was a 6 month campaign that started in October and it will end in April."

Pigeon Forge HS, Oak Ridge HS, Campbell County HS, Midway HS and Heritage HS are the 5 schools participating in this region.

Don Lindsey, spokesperson for AAA, says for this year, to date the total traffic fatalities involving teen drivers is down by 7 compared to the same time in 2012. He says parents need to keep close to their kids, including rides with them to make sure they're following all safety rules.

"Parents disappear from the car, and that's the most important time. Because in that first month of unrestricted driving teens tend to have many many more crashes. about 50% more likely to crash," said Lindsey.

According to AAA:
Total traffic fatalities from teenage (13-19) drivers 2011 (all ages and person types): 116
Total traffic fatalities from teenage (13-19) drivers 2012 (all ages and person types): 115

Total teenage (16-19) traffic fatalities 2011 (all person types): 73
Total teenage (16-19) traffic fatalities 2012 (all person types): 83

"There is a large percentage that does wear but still even if it's 20% that doesn't wear, that's 20% lives that will be lost or can be lost in the event of a crash," said Tuggle.

Schools have three unannounced safety belt checks to see how many students are wearing their seat belt. A trophy is awarded at the end of each school year to the school with the highest percentage of seat belt use and the best educational campaign.

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