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High school students learn expensive lesson: Buckle UP!

2:22 PM, Dec 12, 2012   |    comments
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Video: High school students learn expensive lesson: Buckle UP!

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Tampa, Florida -- It wasn't the best way to start a Wednesday morning...

"Follow the cones to the left," directed a Hillsborough County Sheriff's deputy as a student arrived for the day at Leto High School.

The student could have avoided the delay had he just buckled up.

"Sir, you're going to be issued a citation for not wearing a seat belt. It's a fine of $103 payable up to 30 days," a deputy told the young man as he handed over the traffic citation.

It was an expensive lesson, but one that could be life saving.

Teenagers are among the worst offenders when it comes to buckling up. Sadly, many of the car crash deaths involving teens could have been prevented had they simply buckled their seat belt.

"We found through national statistics that if there's one or more teenagers in the car, that they're less likely to wear their seat belts and we found that to be true this morning," said HCSO Corporal Doug White.

The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office and Tampa Police Department are focusing on 26 high schools in the county as part of "Battle of the Belts."

Not only are they citing drivers who are failing to buckle up, but they are creating some competition among the schools with the hope students will vie to get their school to earn the top spot as the most buckled up school.

Wednesday's citations should not have come as a surprise. Deputies say they have been warning drivers for the last couple of weeks that citation day was coming. There were no warnings.

It wasn't just students caught failing to buckle up.

"We also found that parents dropping their kids off at school were not wearing their seat belts or their children. It's absolutely a learned habit," said Cpl. White.

Students and parents who were buckled up were rewarded for the good behavior with a Life Saver candy.

Leto High's SGA president says she knows from personal experience that seat belts can save lives after a friend's recent crash. Her friend was buckled up, but a back seat passenger was not.

"For wearing her seat belt, instead of running through the windshield, she has marks, but she didn't run through the windshield. Her friend in the back who did run through the windshield, right now, she just got out of the hospital, but she was in the hospital for three weeks," said Mayara Rafuls.

"Battle of the Belts" will continue through this week and next week at 26 of Hillsborough County's High Schools.

Schools with the highest rate of success will divide up a $5,000 reward from Geico.

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