NEWS RELEASE                                             

For Immediate Release
September 29, 2009
Contact: Michele Nicholson
Public Information Officer
  (850) 651-7420


     Okaloosa County Sheriff's Deputies today delivered traffic safety equipment and other prizes to the drivers' education programs at Choctawhatchee High School and Niceville High School. It was all part of a Teen Outreach Program spearheaded by the Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office in an effort to reduce accidents and save lives.

    The agency's Traffic Enforcement Unit was approached by and received a $15,000 grant from the Florida Department of Transportation to fund the program. Okaloosa County then ranked fifth in the region in the number of traffic-related injuries and fatalities involving teens.

    The grant helped fund a youth motivational speaker, traffic safety posters, and a safety belt campaign and survey at Okaloosa high schools.

    On May 13th 2009, deputies conducted seat belt usage surveys of 200 student drivers at each of the larger schools and of every student driver at the smaller schools, Baker and Laurel Hill.

Here are the results: 

* Niceville High: 103 wearing belts ... 49% usage rate

* Choctawhatchee High: 168 wearing belts ....84% usage rate

* Fort Walton Beach High: 155 wearing belts ...78% usage rate

* Crestview High: 141 wearing belts...70% usage rate

* Baker High: 84 out of 111...76% usage rate

* Laurel Hill: 12 of 36 cars...34% usage rate

    On May 19th, a popular youth motivational speaker visited the schools to promote driving safety, including buckling up. Deputies returned to the schools on May 27th to do a recount of  the first 200 student drivers at the larger schools and of every car at Baker and Laurel Hill.

Here are the post-presentation results:

* Niceville High School: 128 wearing belts...64% usage rate (15%  increase)

* Choctawhatchee High: 185 wearing belts...92% usage rate (8% increase)

* Fort Walton Beach High: 162...81% usage rate

* Crestview High: 167 wearing belts...83% usage rate

* Baker High: 84 of 115...73% usage rate

* Laurel Hill: 16 of 31...52% usage rate

    Choctawhatchee High won items such as safety cones, stop signs, and traffic safety DVD's  for having the largest number of student drivers buckling up. Niceville High won similar prizes for having the largest rate of increase based on number of students counted.

     Traffic Enforcement Unit Director Sgt. Jay Jones says Okaloosa County has also now dropped from fifth on the list of teen traffic-related injuries and fatalities in the region to 11th.