By Max Hrenda
This morning, one county high school began its campaign to increase the use of seatbelts among students, staff and faculty.
Students at Unaka High School took the first step in the Battle of the Belt, a contest geared towards the importance of seatbelts, by performing an unannounced seatbelt check.
The contest, sponsored by the Tennessee Highway Patrol, is statewide, and encourages each of Tennessee’s high schools to participate. On Oct. 1, Elizabethton High School began its participation with an unannounced belt check, as well.
Today, under the guidance of the school resource officer, Carter County Sheriff’s Deputy Shane Watson, UHS takes its first step toward increasing seatbelt use.
“The point of the contest is to raise awareness for seatbelts,” Watson said. “We’ve got to actually increase the usage from the start of the school year to the end. The school with the best campaign for seatbelt use and the highest usage rate is going to receive a trophy.”
In addition to competing in the statewide contest, the Carter County Schools system was offered extra incentive by THP district Safety Education Officer Lt. Rick Garrison.
“Trooper Garrison has gone out on his own,” Watson said. “It’s a competition between all high schools in the region, but he’s going to award a trophy to the winner of the four county high schools.”
The competition requires that a student-led committee be responsible for crafting the campaign. Watson said the UHS Battle of the Belt team boasts 17 students, who are beginning to formulate their plan for boosting seatbelt usage among their classmates.
“We’re checking to see if they’re wearing their seatbelts in the mornings and the afternoons,” said junior Gwen Cox. “We might have an assembly for it. We’re going to make flyers and posters and pretty much do what we need to to raise awareness.”
Two members of the committee – junior Tabitha Jenkins and Watson’s son, Cory, a senior – know through personal experience how valuable seatbelts can be in a wreck. Both of them were involved in wrecks, and neither wore their seatbelts.