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Monday, April 13, 2009

“Wear Your Seat Belt. Always.”

A Father Urges Florida High School Students to Buckle Up

On a recent sunny morning in Florida, almost 200 Newberry High School students stood in silence as a former classmate's father urged them to buckle their seat belts whenever they get into a car.

Tom Solberg, whose son Richard Jaggers was among four Newberry students killed in a car wreck a year ago, said, "It's an act that only takes a second to perform, an act that if not done could end your life in seconds." He added that the students might have lived if they had been wearing seat belts.

Jaggers and his friend, Alexander Coppock, both 18, perished in a crash after veering off State Road 24 on an early Sunday morning in May. Neither had been wearing a seat belt, and both young men were hurled from the vehicle.

Solberg made his request while the students watched the unveiling of the first of several signs that will be mounted at high schools around Alachua County. In gold letters, the blue signs at the student exits from Newberry High read, "Buckle up Panthers." Inmate crews will be installing signs at other high schools. The Eastside High sign will spell out "Buckle up Rams."

Florida Department of Transportation spokeswoman Gina Busscher said the signs were a public-private partnership involving donations of time and material.

With spring break starting soon, Alachua County Sheriff's spokesman Art Forgey said that this week is a good time to remind students about the importance of safety.
Sheriff Sadie Darnell told the Newberry High students that she and others are focusing on traffic safety because "traffic crashes are the No. 1 killer of teens. Driving is the most dangerous thing most of you will do in your lives. Every time you see one of these signs, we want you to remember that there is a very simple thing you can do to save your life. Buckle up."

About 200 of the nearly 600 Newberry were on hand for the sign-unveiling ceremony. While Solberg spoke, the students listened intently as he recalled seeing two Florida Highway Patrol troopers turn into his driveway, arriving there to tell him that his son had died.

"What a heavy burden for law enforcement officers to have to carry - to tell someone their child has died," Solberg said. "Make the right decision. Wear you seat belt. Always."

Is your teen a safe driver? The National Safety Commission has developed a new Teen Injury Prevention course to emphasize driving safety for teenagers. For more information, including a Driver Education Book for Parents, visit

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