By Tamas Mondovics

This year’s Battle of the Belts Awards Ceremony was held at Lennard High School, located at 2342 Shell Point Rd. E. in Ruskin, thanks to the event host dominating the contest by reaching first place as the best overall campaign winner.

The Battle of the Belts initiative consists of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office working with local organizations and agencies such as Hillsborough County Public Schools and GEICO to increase safety belt use by teenage drivers and passengers.

A sobering fact is that American teens are having the highest fatality rate in motor vehicle crashes, above any other age group, but the lowest safety belt use rates of all drivers, and an even lower when there are multiple teens in the vehicle.

The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office Community Outreach Division sponsored the competition to promote the seat belt awareness campaign in December of 2012 with the participation of 26 Hillsborough County schools.

However, the campaign itself is the result of the efforts of the Slosberg and Marchetti families, who worked tirelessly to create The Dori Slosberg and Katie Marchetti Primary Seat Belt Law, which went into effect on June 30, 2009, named after the two teenagers, Dori Slosberg, 14, who died in 1996 in south Florida, and  Katie Marchetti, 16, who died in 2006.

Marchetti’s grandmother Dianne Sipe, continues to spearhead efforts in Florida to put things in perspective to students. “You think you are invincible,” she told them. “Katie lost her life because she did not wear her seatbelt, but now her legacy is in this law. Please keep your seat belts on.”

 Award Winners:

Highest Percentage of Seat Belt Usage:

*Tied for 2nd: East Bay High School & Steinbrenner High School 98%

*1st:  Riverview High School 98.25%

 Most Improved:

*2nd: 16.36% improvement- Freedom High School

*1st: 26.17% improvement- Brandon High School

 Best Poster:

*3rd: Plant City High School

*2rd: Lennard High School

*1st: Newsome High School

 Best PSA:

*3rd: Blake High School

*2nd: Spoto High School

*1st: Lennard High School

 Best Overall Campaign:

*3rd: Spoto High School

*2nd: Steinbrenner High School

*1st: Lennard High School


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