COLLEGE STATION — For years Texans have been told that buckling up can save their lives. Now they are about to be shown.
With the use of a “roll-over convincer,” the Texas Agricultural Extension Service and the Texas Department of Transportation are demonstrating how people can be tossed about or even thrown from a motor vehicle in a roll-over crash when they are not wearing safety belts.
“In the convincer, which is a pickup cab mounted on a trailer, dummies representing an adult and a child are placed in the vehicle without seat belts to illustrate what happens to occupants when they are not belted,” said Janie Harris, Extension passenger safety specialist. Typically, the dummies flop and fly about — sometimes out the windows — as the cab is rolled over on a mechanical pivot.
“The dummies are then buckled in and the machine is operated again to demonstrate how the occupants are held in position during the roll- over crash.”
County Extension agents, law enforcement officers and traffic safety specialists can use the convincer at health fairs, county fairs, automobile shows and other events to demonstrate seat belt safety, she said. The reality of what actually happens to people who do not use their safety belts is made more visible with the roll-over device.
“Many Texans wear their seat belts and insist that their children are belted on every trip,” she said. “However, many injuries and fatalities still occur because people don’t wear their safety belts.” Harris said surveys show that seat belt use occurs about 70 percent of the time in the urban and suburban areas and 50 percent or less in rural communities.
About 60 percent of the occupants who died in traffic crashes during 1993 were not wearing safety belts, she said. All regular passenger vehicles — cars, vans, pickups, for example — are covered by state seat belt and child restraint laws, but others are not — vehicles for hire, postal vehicles, one-ton pickups, large commercial vans, and others. Children ages 4 and under are protected by law regardless of the type of vehicle and their location in it.
“Convincing people to buckle up and secure their children in safety seats can save lives and injuries,” Harris said. “Child safety seats used correctly are 71 percent effective in preventing fatalities. Safety belts are 45 percent to 55 percent effective. And air bags, combined with safety belts, are up to 65 percent effective.”
The economic costs to families, communities and the state from traffic crashes also can be reduced. Unbelted crash victims incur two to seven times the medical costs of buckled victims, according to the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration.
“That, plus the economic loss due to fatalities makes this a societal problem, not just an individual problem,” Harris said. “The 1993 economic loss to Texas for 3,037 deaths due to traffic accidents is estimated to be more than $11.7 billion.”
“Seeing is believing,” Harris said, “and the roll-over convincer gives us that edge in persuading more Texans to wear seat belts through demonstrations.”
For more information on using the convincer, contact Janie Harris or Janeen Ashton of the Extension Service, (979) 845-1953.