Jennifer Hyde, English teacher and cheerleading coach at Thayer High School, is overseeing the program. The Thayer High School cheerleaders are sponsoring the program.
"I worked with Kelly Martin from MoDOT to bring Battle of the Belt to Thayer High School. We had our first unannounced seat belt check the first week of October. We found that only 44 percent of student drivers and passengers of student drivers were buckled up as they left the school parking lot," Hyde said.
Last week was the first in a series of safety educational programs that will be held at the school. In conjunction with the program, Sgt. Marty Elmore, with Troop G of the Missouri Highway Patrol, was at the school with the troop's rollover simulater.
"Students in grades seven through 12 had the opportunity to see the simulator in action," Hyde said.
In the upcoming weeks, several more educational programs will be held at the school. "There will be posters around the school, fliers on cars, radio advertisements and an assembly provided by MoDOT, along with other safety, educational activities," Hyde said.
At the end of the educational portion of Battle of the Belt, which runs through Nov. 21, another unannounced seatbelt check will be conducted at the school. "We hope our next check will raise the percentage of student drivers and passengers of student drivers that are buckled up," Hyde said.
A few students at the school will also be participating in creating public service announcements about seat belt safety. Hyde said money could be raised for the school if the students should win in the public announcement competition.
What exactly is Battle of the Belt? The program was designed to reduce the number of motor-vehicle-related injuries and fatalities among high school students by increasing their seat belt use.
"Teens are an important targeted audience for this program. A recent study by MoDOT through the Missouri Safety Center showed only 61 precent of Missouri teenagers wear seat belts," she said.
Information from MoDOT said young drivers between the ages of 15 and 18 comprise 5.4 percent of Missouri's 4.2 million licensed drivers and are involved in 15 percent of the traffic crashes in the state. One person between the ages of 15 and 20 is killed or injured in Missouri traffic crashes every 54 minutes.