Ollie Otter is lining up his activities for the year and is hunting local schools in which to offer education on booster seat and seatbelt safety.
“I would like to visit every school in the Warren County system this year,” said Tennessee Constable Jason Dodson, who will be coordinating events throughout the year. “If principals will call me, we can arrange a time for Ollie to visit.”
The Ollie Otter safety program was developed by several organizations as a solution to a serious problem: lack of booster seat and seatbelt education to our youth at a critical age when good safety habits are formed.
The Ollie Otter program communicates that state law requires the use of a booster seat until a child is 4-foot-9, or 9 years old. An orange and white construction barrel, representing Ollie’s home, is on display to teach the children the importance of roadway safety near construction work zones. The children are told to ask their parents to “please slow down” when they see construction barrels or road builders on roads.
With the help of the Tennessee Highway Patrol and local law enforcement, the children are also taught about “Belts to Bones,” and what parts of the body the seatbelt should hit when properly buckled up – the collarbone, the sternum, and the hipbone.
The fully costumed Ollie Otter character encourages children to wear their seatbelts and educates them about Tennessee’s booster seat law. Volunteers from the crowd are measured to show the students the height differences between those who need to be in a booster seat and those who don’t.
The Ollie Otter program is implemented by a network of statewide volunteers who work through the Tennessee Technological University BusinessMedia Center in Cookeville to coordinate the presentations. The unprecedented educational safety campaign was launched in December 2006.
Julie Brewer, program coordinator with the TTU BusinessMedia Center, says the education effort is working.
“Statistics show that booster seat usage is improving, which is what our goal is,” she said. “The familiarity of the program has grown so children and the community recognize Ollie and his message when he goes to a school or community event.”
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2008, the use of seatbelts in passenger vehicles saved an estimated 13,250 lives. The use of booster seats compared to the use of adult seatbelts alone lowers the risk of injury to children in crashes by 50 percent.
Ollie recently gave a presentation at LBJ&C Headstart in Midway. Later this year, he will be in attendance at Kids Funfest and Safety Day on April 25 at McMinnville Civic Center. The event is free and open to the public. It offers children all kinds of fun activities and a close-up look at safety equipment, such as emergency helicopters, firetrucks, ambulances, and a roll-over simulator from Tennessee Highway Patrol. Ollie will also be in attendance during the Kids Funfest and Safety Day on April 11 in Van Buren.
For more information about the Ollie Otter safety program, to sign up as a volunteer, or to schedule a visit from Ollie, contact Dodson at 931-607-7474.