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Letters: Parents should teach teens importance of seat belts

Adults provide poor example for teen drivers Sept. 14 C.T. Bowen column

Convince teens to use seat belts

Your column chronicled the careless, rude or self-absorbed adult drivers so well. We need good adult role models for our teens. On the other hand, teens are eager to become drivers and do not have the maturity or experience to understand the dangers on our overcrowded roads full of those careless, rude and self-absorbed drivers you have witnessed.

Our children are our future and we want to protect them at all costs. I lost my first-born granddaughter at age 16 on March 4, 2006. She was not wearing her seat belt. Her belted driver survived with barely a scratch but had dozed at the wheel. There were no drugs or alcohol. Just simply being tired. And it was only 10:30 on a Friday night. Katie was thrown from her car and then run over by an unsuspecting motorist.

Since that time my daughter and her husband have created the Katie Marchetti Memorial Foundation to increase the use of seat belts among teens. Florida has a primary seat belt law for drivers under the age of 18. However, if the parents do not buckle up, then the kids do not buckle up. Parents are the role models, the enforcers. Since Florida has failed year after year to pass a primary seat belt law for 18 years and older, law enforcement has its hands tied. As a result, they do not enforce the law for those under 18 since they often cannot tell the difference in the driver's age of 17, 18 or even 19. The only way a person 18 and over can be stopped for not wearing a seat belt is if there is another infraction like speeding, a broken tail light or even loud music within a certain distance.

Next year, 2009, is the last year Florida will have a chance to receive $35.5-million for enacting a primary safety belt law. Imagine how Florida could put to good use $35.5-million to educate and protect its citizens. Florida continues to be the only state in the southeast that does not have a primary seat belt law.

For the last two years our foundation has distributed almost 12,000 seat belt pledges each year to the 25 high schools in Hillsborough County for students, who request parking decals at school, to sign. This year Pasco County schools implemented these seat belt pledges.

In November, the Community Traffic Safety Team will conduct the Battle of the Belts competition with all 25 Hillsborough County High School to increase seat belt awareness and reward the winning schools with cash prizes. Pasco County plans to introduce its Battle of the Belts competition this year as well.

Our foundation has created a Click It or Ticket public service announcement. It can be viewed at and you can download our seat belt pledge for students to sign to promise to always wear a seat belt. We don't want another parent to travel the painful journey of losing their child in such a preventable way.

Dianne Sipe, Valrico

Degree not best measuring stick

I do not find it surprising one iota that retiring School Board member Marge Whaley and the teachers union endorsed Steve Donaldson. What I find a bit curious is that they find Donaldson to be a more qualified candidate than the current school superintendent, Heather Fiorentino, because of graduate-level education.

Though Donaldson retired in 2002 with over 20 years in the military, he has only served as a teacher for four years. Donaldson does have a secondary degree in educational leadership from St. Leo University but, according to the school's Web site, this is a degree that can be obtained online in less than two years.

On the other hand, Fiorentino taught for 14 years, was a state legislator and superintendent for four years.

Not to undermine the importance of education, but what Whaley and the teachers union need to grasp is that sometimes experience and education can come outside of a classroom and that on-the-job-training is invaluable. Examples in this regard are Walt Disney, Thomas Edison and most recently Microsoft's Bill Gates and Apple's Steve Jobs.

Sandy Graves, Land O'Lakes

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Letters: Parents should teach teens importance of seat belts 09/24/08 [Last modified: Monday, September 29, 2008 3:51pm]
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