LEESBURG, GA (WALB) - A huge effort is underway in Lee County to encourage better driving habits among young drivers.
Leesburg police and Lee County firefighters are working to spread a simple message to students who are behind the wheel: click it or ticket.
Officials staged a "Click it or Ticket" seatbelt check Tuesday to make sure every driver who arrived on campus, arrived wearing a seatbelt.
They didn't hand out tickets, just pamphlets, and a stern reminder of the deadly consequences of not wearing a seatbelt.
"Cars are designed to protect us on the inside. So we got to stay inside the car. And that seatbelt is what keeps us inside there," said Kyle Lentz, Lee Co. firefighter.
Lentz is one of the driving forces behind the effort. He said the goal is to prevent another tragedy. In August, Anne Marie Eubanks, 17, was killed when she was ejected in a car crash. She was not wearing a seatbelt.
Despite the tragic loss, officials conducted a seatbelt check last month and found more than a quarter of the student drivers were not buckled up.
Tuesday, the results were much better. Lentz estimates just less than 5% were not wearing seatbelts. He hopes that means the message is sticking.
"The more people we can educate about seatbelts and how they save lives, then the fatality rate should go down," he said.
Students said the check was a simple reminder, but one they hope makes a huge difference.
"I hope they're scared to get into an accident and then something terrible happens, and it could have been prevented at least a little bit if they would have worn their seatbelts," said senior Sequaja Carter.
Officials' effort to encourage safe driving habits extends to students who have yet to get behind the wheel. They hosted a reenactment demo at the 9th Grade Academy, where students were given the chance to wear impaired driving goggles that simulate driving under the influence.
Though most of the students aren't even old enough to have a driving permit, Lentz said it's never too early.
"The better education we can give our students about the dangers of driving, the better chances they have to survive.This is all about giving them a second chance," said Lentz.
If your school is interested in learning more about conducting student seat belt checks and other safe driving education, you can contact Firefighter Kyle Lentz at the Lee County Fire Department at (229) 759-6090.
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