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The Peter K. O'Rourke Special Achievement Award

2012 GHSA Annual Meeting Awards program cover 2012 Award Descriptions
PDF icon [1.1 MB, 10 pgs.]

The Peter K. O'Rourke Special Achievement Awards recognize notable achievements in the field of highway safety during the prior calendar year by individuals, coalitions, organizations, nonprofit groups, businesses, media, government agencies, universities or programs. About Peter K. O'Rourke

2012 Winner: Ollie Otter Booster Seat & Seat Belt Safety Program

All 2012 Highway Safety Award Winners

Ollie Otter poster

Traffic crashes and lack of or improper use of restraints are the number one cause of serious injuries and deaths in children ages two to 16. Despite this, until Ollie Otter there was no comprehensive statewide booster seat and seatbelt campaign targeted to Tennessee’s elementary school children and their caregivers.

The Ollie Otter Booster Seat and Seat Belt Safety Program was developed to reach children at a critical age, when good safety habits are formed. It helps children learn to make the correct choice as they move from car seat, to booster seat, to seatbelt. With repeated exposure and by creating a fun environment, the program hopes that children who learn how to be safe when they are young will continue to grow into responsible and safe drivers themselves.

In 2011, Ollie Otter provided education to 344 elementary schools across the state of Tennessee. More than 85,000 children met Ollie and received child passenger safety materials at school or community events. Materials distributed include height charts so children can see if they meet the state booster seat requirements, bookmarks detailing the state law, and postage-paid envelopes to encourage teachers to continue the traffic safety lessons by having their students send letters or drawings to Ollie.

The program launched during the 2007-2008 school year. Since then, Ollie has made more than 1,200 school visits, reaching more than 359,600 children, and booster seat usage in Tennessee has increase more than 27 percent. The program has grown continuously each year. There are now 16 Ollie costumes throughout the state, and Alaska and Mississippi have obtained funding to start their own Ollie Otter programs.

To succeed, the program depends on the support of more than 900 volunteers who have received free, online training provided by the Tennessee Board of Regents. Through its Ready2Teach Program, the Board of Regents is also developing a problem-based learning course that allows teachers to meet their statewide requirements while bringing the topic of highway safety into the classroom. Other partners include: the Tennessee Commissioner’s Council for Injury Prevention, which is working to support stronger occupant protection laws that meet NHTSA recommendations; and Community Anti-Drug Coalitions across Tennessee, which hope to provide service learning opportunities to get high school and college-age involved with the program.

Major funding is provided by the Tennessee Transportation Development Foundation, the Tennessee Governor’s Highway Safety Office, and Tennessee Tech University Education & Safety grants. The Tennessee Tech University BusinessMedia Center provides $40,000 of in-kind support.

Tennessee has seen outstanding highway safety success over the last five years. Motor vehicle fatalities are down, and booster seat usage has increased from 15 percent to 42 percent. State leaders and motor vehicle crash victims alike attest to the influence that Ollie Otter Booster Seat and Seat Belt Safety Program had in achieving these positive changes.

For more information, contact program manager Julie Brewer at 931-372-3318 or