Law enforcement and local members of the media selected Weeki Wachee High School as the overall winner Friday in the second annual “Battle of the Belts” competition.
From March 18 through the 22nd, the sheriff’s office held events at area high schools to promote the importance of buckling up.
Plainclothes deputies took a tally of drivers entering the parking lot at the start and end of the week to record data of seat-belt use.
During the week, law enforcement “challenged” the high schools to create a campaign for seat-belt safety, said Sgt. Andrew Batchelder, and schools submitted posters, videos and informational portfolios.
Students and their parents were encouraged to sign a “contract for life pledge,” agreeing to not drive under alcohol or drug influence, or ride with an impaired driver and wear a seat belt.
On Friday, Weeki Wachee High School was selected as winner of the overall campaign. The school will receive $1,000 from the sheriff’s Youth Education Services Board.
The best poster award went to Nature Coast Technical’s Alexandra Gagnon, who will win a LED television donated by Walmart, and the school will get $250. Best public service announcement went to a video by students at Weeki Wachee High , will receive $250.
At 91 percent, Nature Coast has the highest percentage of recorded seat-belt use at the end of the “Battle of the Belts” week and will receive $750.
At the unannounced tally, Nature Coast had the lowest percentage of drivers wearing seat belts — 231 drivers out of a total of 656 drivers were seen without a seat belt. The school increased seat-belt usage from about 74 percent to about 91 percent after the campaign.
Central High School was the only school to lose drivers wearing seat belts during the campaign, with a 2 percent drop from about 79 percent to about 77 percent. Hernando and Weeki Wachee high schools both improved on the frequency of drivers wearing seat belts, and Springstead maintained about 85-percent compliance throughout.
Springstead High School returned the highest number of completed contracts — 348 out of 1,614 issued — and will receive $250.
Batchelder said he planned to call the winning schools’ principals Friday afternoon, and said the sheriff’s office hopes to incorporate the campaign poster and video into future law enforcement campaigns.