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Challenge to increase teen and youth seat belt use kicks off in Virginia

ROANOKE—A statewide campaign among high schools and middle schools to increase seat belt usage rates among teens and youth will kick off in Virginia Sept. 16.

The three-week challenge, “Save Your TAIL-Gate, Buckle Up” is designed to help youth and teens develop a life-long habit of buckling up. It is sponsored by Youth of Virginia Speak Out About Traffic Safety (YOVASO), The Allstate Foundation, and the Virginia State Police Association (VSPA).

During the campaign, student groups from 58 Virginia schools will be competing against one another to increase seat belt use among teens and youth. Students will develop creative ideas for encouraging seat belt use among their peers at school events and home football games. Each participating school will be judged on the effectiveness and creativity of its seat belt educational programs, the percentage of students signing pledges to buckle up, and the percentage increase in the school’s seat belt usage rate by the end of the campaign. The high school that wins the challenge will receive a recognition celebration for its students with food, music, prizes, and games.

“This campaign was created with the students in mind,” said Sarah Watson, YOVASO Program Development Coordinator. “We want the students to have fun with the football theme and make some positive changes for seat belt safety.”

According to Virginia statistics, teens between the ages of 16 and 20 are less likely to buckle up when riding in a motor vehicle than other age groups. In 2011, 83 teens were killed in crashes in Virginia. Of those 83 teens, 39 percent were not wearing safety belts. An additional 1,376 teenagers were seriously injured in crashes. The leading causes of these injuries and fatalities were speeding, distracted driving, impaired driving and running off the road and overcorrecting.

“Our goal is to use this campaign to create a lifelong buckle up habit among teens,” said Watson. “In many fatal crashes involving teens, a seat belt could have saved their lives.”

The “Save Your TAIL-Gate, Buckle Up” Campaign will end Oct. 11. Campaign winners in the high school and middle school brackets will be announced Oct. 18. The campaign is funded under a grant from the Virginia Highway Safety Office and a $10,000 grant from The Allstate Foundation.

YOVASO is Virginia’s peer-to-peer education and prevention program for teen driver safety. Through YOVASO, teens work to advocate for safer driving among their peers and to develop positive prevention strategies for their schools and communities. The nonprofit organization, which has approximately 121 active school clubs across Virginia, is administered by the Virginia State Police Association and funded through a grant from the Virginia Highway Safety Office. For more information, contact YOVASO at 540-345-0003 or visit the website at yovaso.org.

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