More than 50 high schools, middle schools and youth groups across Virginia are kicking off a statewide campaign to increase seat belt usage rates among teens and youth.

Locally, Louisa County High School, and Drew, Louisa County, Shirley Heim and Walker–Grant middle schools are participating in the campaign.

The five-week challenge, “Save Your Tailgate, Buckle Up & Slow Down” will encourage youths and teens to develop a lifelong buckle up habit by reminding them that seat belts are critical safety equipment for every driver and passenger. The campaign emphasizes seat belts are designed to protect and save lives in the same way football helmets protect football players.

In 2018, 71 teens aged 16-20 were killed in crashes in Virginia, and of those teens, 66 percent were not wearing seat belts. According to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, 2019 preliminary data reveals 28 teens have been killed on Virginia’s roadways from Jan. 1 through June 30, and of those, 50 percent were unbelted.

In addition to buckling up, the campaign will also address speed prevention which remains a key factor in all fatal crashes involving a young driver with approximately half of fatal teen crashes being caused by excessive speed.

Throughout the challenge, students will develop a creative project designed to influence their peers to buckle up and/or slow down. In addition, they will hold pre and post seat belt checks to measure the campaign’s impact on increasing seat belt use among students.

Other activities will include educational events at home football games, buckle up pledge signings, seat belt safety contests, organizing traffic safety rallies and tailgate events, and other creative messaging and programming.

This campaign is funded by a grant from the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles with additional funding from State Farm, which will support prizes and educational incentives and materials.

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