It appears more teen-agers are buckling up, but not enough to satisfy safety officials who hope a contest might get more to use their seat belts.

Nearly two-thirds of Missouri teen-agers buckle up when they get into the car, up from a year ago. That still leaves a third who don’t.

Enter the 2010 Battle of the Belt Challenge sponsored by the Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety in conjunction with American Family Insurance and Missouri College of Emergency Physicians. Schools compete to see which can raise seat belt use rates the most. They also produce a 30-second seat belt promo. The coalition’s Melissa Black says cash and prizes are up for grabs.

“We’re trying to do what we can, maybe, to relate it a little bit more to them, to hopefully let them see that it does really affect them personally,” Black says. “Maybe that’s part of why we’ve seen that increase, but certainly we still have a long way to go.”

More than 144 schools participated last year. Washington High School won the video contest. The contest this year runs from October 4th through November 19th.

Black says the coalition hopes some method can be found to increase seat belt use among teen-agers.

“We know that traffic crashes; it’s the leading cause of death for people age 15 to 20 years old,” Black says. “It’s not drugs. It’s not even drinking. It’s getting in their car and not putting their seat belt on.”

Statistics on traffic accidents and teen-agers are sobering. In 2009 Missouri traffic accidents, 24% involved a driver young than 21. Of all the fatal traffic wrecks in Missouri last year, 17% involved a young driver. As Black mention, traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for people 15-to-20 years of age.

Washington High School’s winning video, “Everyone’s a Winner When You Buckle Up”, and more information about the Battle of the Belt can be found at

AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [1:20 MP3]