The Richmond Register

October 25, 2012

‘No laughing matter’

Southern students witness rollover simulator

By Crystal Wylie
Register News Writer

BEREA —

More than 300 Madison Southern High School students witnessed what could happen to a person involved in a rollover car accident.

A rollover simulator is designed to replicate the rollover accident of a car traveling 20 mph, explained DeShaun Bailey and John Smoot of the Kentucky Office of Highway Safety, which provided the simulator.

Two adult dummies and two child-size dummies were belted into the simulator to show how they remained in place, even after several rolls.

Smoot unbuckled the dummies and replayed the scenario. Students watched as the bodies were jostled around inside of the vehicle. The dummies eventually were ejected out of the windows and landed at their feet.

Bailey thanked the students for not laughing.

“This is no laughing matter,” he said. “Had this been a real accident, these would be dead people.”

The rollover simulator is part of series of equipment the office uses to promote safety, Smoot said. They also use a 2D (distracted driver) simulator and 3D drunk goggles that simulate intoxication at a 2.0 blood alcohol level (almost twice the .08 legal limit). Students must maneuver a “souped up” golf cart through orange cones while wearing the drunk goggles. These presentations are made each year at hundreds of schools all over Kentucky, he said.

The same rollover simulator was parked at Berea Community School Tuesday.

“Last year, 721 people were killed on Kentucky’s road ways,” Bailey told the students. “This year it’s 500 as of January. This is too many people.”

Bailey implored the students to think about that number of deaths as if they all died at once from a disease.

“This would be an epidemic, there would be congressional hearings about it,” he said. “But, our office has a tally of how many people pass away on the road ways and every single one of them is a big deal to us.”

In reality, those deaths occur sporadically so “they don’t seem like a big deal anymore,” he said.

Kentucky is a state with a primary seatbelt law and a $25 fine for each person not wearing a seatbelt in a vehicle. Proper seat belt use (with the bottom strap over the lap and not the stomach), coupled with modern car impact technology and airbags, give students a better chance at survival, Bailey said.

The rollover simulator only shows a mild accident, he said, so “just holding on without a seatbelt would not work.”

“I’ve tried it,” Smoot said.

Smoot talked about distracted driving and mentioned an AT&T commercial that features a man from Louisville who sustained brain damage from a car accident during which his girlfriend was texting while driving. She lost control of the car and hit a tree, he said. “Now he can’t feed himself, dress himself or walk anymore — that quick.”

He asked students to think about what they would do if a friend drove up with a whiskey bottle in between their legs.

“Hopefully you wouldn’t get in the car with them,” he said.

But then Smoot asked them to think about what they would do if the same friend pulled up, but was texting instead. “You wouldn’t think twice about getting in the car,” he said.

Statistics prove distracted driving is four times more deadly than drunk driving, a statistic he found hard to believe, at first, he said.

“But here’s the thing, the drunk guy is trying to get home, he’s concentrating. The person texting is not looking at the road for five to seven seconds at a time. At 60 mph you can travel 100 yards in three seconds,” he explained. “So you’re going at least a couple hundred yards without even looking at the road.”

And to drive the point home, Smoot talked about a co-worker’s daughter who spent three weeks in a coma from a car accident. The insurance company discovered she had been texting at the time of the accident and would not pay “probably about a million dollars” in hospital expenses, he said.

“Out of all the people I’ve seen die from texting and driving, not one of the (text) messages was important.” Smoot said.

The rollover simulator is part of the school’s Re-Think Your Ride program, in collaboration with Eastern Kentucky University’s nursing program and the Madison County Health Department, said Sean Quinlan, Youth Service Center director at MSHS.

The simulations are part of a month-long effort to encourage seatbelt usage, he said.

Students from EKU’s nursing program performed an “incognito” survey of students wearing seat belts as they exited the parking lot in late September. They found 86 percent of MSHS students were wearing them, Quinlan said.

In addition to the simulators, the school has purchased banners reminding students to wear seat belts and there are morning announcements about driving statistics.

All students taking the driving course watched a presentation by a Berea parent who did not buckle her 18-month-old son because they were “just driving down the road,” Quinlan said.

A few miles from home, she got into a rollover accident and her son ended up face-first in a ditch. Now 19-years-old and a student at MSHS, her son was with her during the presentations, but he requires around-the-clock care.

A followup seatbelt survey will be performed in the next few weeks to determine the impact of the month-long intervention, Quinlan said.

Crystal Wylie can be reached at cwylie@richmondregister.com

or 623-1669, Ext. 6696.