Free gas fuels students' safe driving

November 09, 2007|By Ari Schwartz | Ari Schwartz,Sun reporter

Gloria Zartman, a senior at Long Reach High School, considered herself a safe driver, so joining Courtesy on the Road was an easy decision. Then, becoming the program's first prizewinner was more exciting.

"It's a cool program because they are rewarding people for good deeds ... [you] should do anyway," said Zartman.

Now in its third year, the campaign for Courtesy on the Road is rewarding Howard County high school students for safe and courteous driving. Every week, one student who is "caught" driving safely by the program's spotters is awarded a $100 gas card.

To be eligible for prizes, students attach a magnet featuring Sheldon, the program's mascot, to the back of their cars.

Then, "volunteers from all walks of life," the program's spotters, "keep their eye out for students who are displaying the Sheldon logo and doing something courteous on the road," said the campaign's chairman, Rick Bowers.

"These students are put into a collection, and a winner is picked from that group," Bowers said.

This year marks the first time Courtesy on the Road will give out gas cards as prizes, funded by a grant from the Columbia Foundation. Lisa Morrow, a Howard County mother who founded the campaign with Steffi Rubin, expects about 1,800 students to participate in the program, an increase of 300 over last year.

"I would hope participation would increase or at least stay the same. Especially because this year we are giving away $100 gas cards every week, which was actually the students' idea," said Morrow.

Zartman likes that Courtesy on the Road not only rewards students who drive safely but also provides incentive for other young people to do the same. "I think [students] get the goal behind the program, but the prizes are a lot of motivation," she said.

The program's second winner, senior Cary Li of River Hill High School, said he joined for the free prizes. "And once I tell students that I won," Li said, "I'm sure they will want to join, too."

Senior Stefanie Frost of Hammond High School, the program's third gas-card winner, said that Courtesy on the Road has had a big impact at her school.

"My friends all put magnets on their cars," said Frost. "Everybody wants the prizes because gas is really expensive, so I think it's good motivation to drive safely."

That's the kind of reaction that Bowers is looking for. "We want to create an environment where these young people are being rewarded for good behavior and not just punished for bad behavior," he said.

At the end of the school year, Courtesy on the Road selects one high school as the overall winner and throws a party for its students, Morrow said.

ari.schwartz@baltsun.com

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