COLLEGE STATION — Pickups and other “tough” vehicles have generally replaced the horse in today’s world, but there is still a problem of being “bucked off” or more specifically “bucked out.”
Twentieth century “horse power,” whether it be a Ram, Bronco, Silverado, Cherokee or some other brand must be respected and proper precautions taken. The Texas Agricultural Extension Service’s Passenger Safety Education Project has coordinated with the Texas Department of Transportation to demonstrate what can happen to unbelted occupants in a rollover motor vehicle crash.
The demonstration equipment is appropriately named the “Roll-over Convincer.” The convincer is used to show how vehicle occupants can be tossed about or even thrown from a motor vehicle in a roll-over crash when they are not wearing their safety belts. It then is used to demonstrate how occupants wearing safety belts are held in place inside the safety cage of the cab as the vehicle rolls.
Why all the fuss about roll-over crashes?
Vehicle rollovers are a dominant rural roadside safety problem. Federal Highway Safety Information System data shows that rural “ran- off-road” (ROR) crashes are three and a half times more likely to result in a rollover than urban ROR crashes. Rural roadsides often have steep slopes, ditches, or embankments which contribute to the rollover risk. Vans, straight trucks, and pickups have the highest rollover rate.
During 1994, 494 people died in pickup truck crashes in rural areas of Texas. Eighty of the pickup crashes in rural areas involved an overturn or rollover. Another 108 crashes involved collision with a fixed object. How many of these crash fatalities involved ejection because people were not wearing their safety belt?
Front seat occupants are two to four times more likely to be fatally injured if ejected during a crash (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration 1994 Sampler) whether it be a rollover or a frontal collision with a fixed object.
In 1994, observational surveys of more than 3,621 urban pickup truck occupants in 18 Texas cities showed a safety belt usage rate of 64 percent (about 20 percentage points lower than passenger vehicles). However, studies conducted in 25 rural towns of Texas showed that only 36 percent of the 1,942 pickup truck occupants observed were buckling up.
Unfortunately, other states show similar low usage rates. Most states have seat belt laws that require pickup truck occupants to buckle up. However, this should not be the issue. The key issue is that safety belts when worn correctly can save lives and prevent serious injuries. This is even true for drivers and passengers of the large pickups that are not required by law to buckle up.
What does it take to convince pickup drivers and occupants to buckle up? We must be personally responsible for buckling up whether it’s the law or not.