Anyone wanting to ride home from school with Daniel Walker knows to put on a seat belt or find another way home.
“I always wear my seat belt, and if someone’s in my truck with me, I’m not leaving unless they have theirs on,” said Walker, a junior at Dawson County High School.
Walker’s persistence paid off Oct. 8, when Dawson County Sheriff’s Lt. Tony Wooten followed him home from school and awarded him a $20 gift card for safe driving.
Caught Safe, a new initiative sponsored by the sheriff’s office, Family Connection and a group of concerned parents, rewards young drivers for following basic safety rules.
“We’ve had too many young drivers die on our roads in the last few years, so we wanted to see what we could do to make the kids want to buckle up and be safe,” Wooten said.
Alan Redmon, father of three high school students, said young drivers are at an age when they feel invincible. Recent deaths on local roads, however, may have opened some eyes to the dangers.
Three teens from Dawson County died in car wrecks between Feb. 23 and April 17 this year.
“That affected a lot of kids in the school,” said Redmon, who wanted the sheriff’s office involved in giving out the awards to show that police can be the good guys.
Wooten said officers have seen more students buckling up than in past years.
“With the unfortunate accidents we’ve had in the past, I think a lot of the kids are getting it,” he said. “They’re getting the fact that without a seat belt, they’re at a greater chance of being injured in an accident.”
Caught Safe has given out pizza parties, movie tickets and restaurant certificates over the last few weeks. It is looking into awarding tickets to professional sporting events.
“We don’t just want kids wearing their seat belts in the parking lot at school because they know someone is watching,” said Nancy Stites, Family Connection director. “We want kids to associate putting on a seat belt every time they get in a car.”