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DOT deserves credit for new strategy regarding teen seat belt use

By Staff | Oct 16, 2009

North Dakota drivers age 14 to 20 comprise just nine percent of the state’s licensed drivers but accounted for 20 percent of all crashes last year and data so far this year by the Department of Transportaation (DOT) has indicated a similar figure.

Moreover, there were 13 fatal car crashes last year where teens were behind the wheel, and 15 died in those accidents. What’s more startling is only two were wearing seat belts.

Yes, seat belt use is surprisingly low for young drivers and it’s a reality that has the DOT searching for an effective campaign to encourage young drivers to buckle up.

That campaign includes a “Click it Quick!” contest that is open to N.D. high school students. The DOT and Safe Communities are working to encourage schools to participate in the contest. Points are awarded to students who complete quizzes on the ndteendrivers.com website and hold school community-based education activities centering around driver’s safety. Points are also awarded to schools who create a 30-second “Click it Quick!” video. The school obtaining the most points will earn a fun night at their school including a live band, food, games and prizes from a number of sponsors.

DOT and Safe Communities representatives were in Rugby this month to pitch the “Click it Quick!” contest. Among those listening were local educators.

The contest has its merits, but educators wondered if the incentive – the fun night at the school – is appealing enough to entice students to participate. One suggested offering scholarships or other rewards rather than a dance.

Nevertheless, it’s encouraging to see a different approach in getting the attention of teens about the importance of buckling up. Traditional methods don’t carry as much impact these days.

In the past eight years, nearly 120 teen drivers lost their lives in crashes, and many were not using a seat belt.

The reasons vary and include simply forgetting or feelings of invincibility. Regardless, the grim truth is there are teen drivers dying on state highways every year.

A new method of getting the word out about the importance of seat belt use is required for today’s youth.

And state officials have recognized that.

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