iCUBE, Tennessee Tech
P.O. Box 5103
Cookeville, TN 38505
1100 N Peachtree Ave.
Volpe Library, Room 362
Cookeville, TN 38505
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
SMITH COUNTY - SmithOn January 27, 2023, Smith County Head Start received a visit from a very special guest. Ollie Otter, Tennessee's booster seat and seat belt safety mascot, came to promote child passenger safety laws and best practices. Ollie encouraged everyone to wear their seatbelts, raised awareness about roadway safety in construction zones, and taught everyone the importance of sitting in the correct seat so that their seat belt always lays "Belts to Bones," which meant learning about his catchphrase "Under 4'9" - Booster Time!"
Ollie was joined by several volunteers working to increase booster seat and seat belt usage among Tennessee's youngest travelers including his friend, Daphni , who shared Ollie’s message with the Smith County Head Start group.
The Ollie Otter program is sponsored by several organizations, including the Tennessee Road Builders Association (TRBA) and the TRBA Ladies Auxiliary. Each year this statewide safety education program conducts presentations in all 95 counties in Tennessee, and has grown over the years to include nine other states across the country.
"Our goal is to try to educate children through the Ollie Otter program about Tennessee's child restraint law," said Carol Coleman, chairperson of the Ollie Otter Child Safety Foundation. "Hopefully, children will encourage their caregivers, or whoever is driving them around, to make better safety decisions. Ollie needs help from everyone to make a difference to save children's lives on our Tennessee highways. It is up to us all."
The Ollie Otter program communicates that Tennessee state law requires the use of a booster seat until a child is four feet nine inches tall and nine years old. Ollie stands next to his home–an orange and white construction barrel–while his friends teach groups of children the importance of roadway safety near construction work zones. Kids are asked to tell their caregivers to "Please Slow Down!" when they see construction barrels or road builders on the roadways.
With the help of the Tennessee Highway Patrol and local law enforcement, children also learn that their seat belt should lay across the collarbone, sternum, and hipbone to be properly buckled up. Ollie Otter brings a measuring poster to each event to show the students the height differences between those who need to be in a booster seat and those who don't to ensure they are sitting safely, or "Belts to Bones" as Ollie likes to say.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the use of seat belts in passenger vehicles saved an estimated 374,196 lives from 1975 through 2017. Buckling up and using a booster seat compared to the use of seat belts alone lowers the risk of injury to children in crashes by fifty-nine percent.
The Ollie Otter Program utilizes a network of statewide volunteers who work through Tennessee Technological University’s iCube in Cookeville to coordinate presentations. The unprecedented educational safety campaign was launched in December of 2006, and continues to grow daily.
"The program is growing strong and we are all very excited about its expansion. Moving into the other states, such as Mississippi, creates more opportunities for Ollie to spread his message about booster seat and seat belt safety. Statistics show that booster seat usage is improving, which is what our goal is," said Julie Brewer, Associate director at Tennessee Tech’s iCube. "The familiarity of the program has grown so that children and the community recognize Ollie and his message when he goes to a school or community event."
The Ollie Otter program uses educational materials, such as measuring posters, bookmarks, and an interactive website to inform children and caregivers across the nation about seat belt and booster seat safety.
To sign up as a volunteer, schedule a visit with Ollie, or learn more about the Ollie Otter Booster Seat and Seat Belt Safety Program, visit www.ollieotter.org.