Southeast Georgia leads the state in the number of teen traffic deaths. And the State Department of Public Health says it’s because teens won’t wear seat belts. Officials are frustrated local high schools aren’t participating in a program to save lives.
Steve Davidson, project manager for the state Department of Public Health, says of the 26 high schools in southeast Georgia, only 10 participate in the Drive Alive seat belt program.
He says “We want to make it clear that this isn’t going to be something that’s going to take kids away from reading, writing and math. It’s a peer to peer program that can really work.”
Davidson says many people believe they are safer on rural roads so they don’t wear seat belts.
“In a typical teenaged crash you hit the brakes and you spin around and the car flips. And you’re not in a seat belt and the car rolls over you and that’s it. There’s a lot of risk on these roads. That perception of risk isn’t there because it feels so safe. And it isn’t.”he says.
Davidson says accident victims are more likely to die on rural roads because they are more likely to be speeding. He says it will also take longer for help to arrive, and there are more unimproved roads where it is easier to lose control.
After a star basketball player was killed when walking on the train tracks, students at Wayne County High School realized their lives could end in an instant. 17 year old senior Hope Waldron says she and her friends organized a Drive Alive program to help keep everyone safe.
“Since last year the percentage of seat belt use went from the 60’s and 70’s to where they’re up above 80 percent. So it helps out a lot.”she says
She says the program really took off when local businesses began donating prizes.
“A lot of kids starting getting gas cards and a free car wash. And they got the word out saying ‘Well I wore my seat belt to school and they seen me do it, so I got a free car wash. ‘ And then other kids started wearing their seat belts.” Waldron says