PSAs promote safer driving habits for teens

— Speech class students at Cole County R-5 High School have submitted 30-second public service announcements (PSA) to the annual Battle of the Belt competition, hosted by the Missouri Department of Transportation.

The three group entries varied in delivery from humor to grim reality.

What they had in common was the message, said Cole County Sheriff’s Deputy Josh Stockman, a school resource officer.

“The message is always the same,” he said. “A split-second decision could last a lifetime.”

PSA entries will be judged later this year.

The Battle of the Belt campaign ran Oct. 1-Nov. 8.

A main component is seatbelt checkpoints at the beginning and end of the campaign.

Teen drivers from Cole County R-1 in Russellville and R-5 in Eugene recorded a high percentage of use of seatbelts, compared to the state average of 66 percent. Of 277 seatbelts checked in Russellville, 98 percent were in use. And Eugene students managed a 100 percent use.

Throughout the six-week emphasis, school organizations and the sheriff’s department hosted a variety of awareness activities and informational events.

Stockman handed out Life Savers and DumDum candies as humorous reminders of the message.

At Russellville, a mock fatal accident demonstrated the severe effects of not using a seatbelt.

At Eugene, high schoolers viewed a graphic video presentation by the Missouri State Highway Patrol showing the possible outcomes of distracted driving.

The statewide Battle of the Belt campaign began in 2006, specifically to increase teen seatbelt use.

“I think it piques their interest when you turn something into a competition,” Stockman said.

So he and school resource officer Joe Matherne have encouraged their respective high schools to out do one another in spreading the safety message.

And they have expanded the focus beyond just seatbelt use but to other driving dangers, especially texting while driving.

Throughout the remainder of the school year, the officers will continue to remind students of safe driving tips, particularly around large events like homecoming and prom.

“We want it so fresh in their minds that they’re not thinking about it, just doing it,” Stockman said.

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