When the Nebraska State Patrol demonstrates its rollover simulator, it keeps the dummy toddler strapped in. They don’t want to traumatize any observers.
But “Bob,” the driver of the vehicle, is unhooked. His dummy arms and his dummy head sticking out of the simulator slam repeatedly into the trailer the simulator is mounted on, before finally, in most cases, his floppy body flies from the vehicle.
“We try to have a little fun with it, but we still want to get our point across,” said Nebraska State Patrol Trooper James Estwick.
The patrol has brought a rollover simulator, a seat belt convincer and its distracted-driving simulator to the Midlands International Auto Show, allowing attendees to experience and participate in demonstrations, and hopefully learn something about driving safety in the process.
The rollover demonstrator is an old black Chevrolet S-10 pickup truck, which rotates on an axis like the main course at a barbecue, except faster. Its bed is shortened and modified to hold the hydraulic pump that spins it.
In the first demonstration, it spins as both dummies are seat-belted in. Bob and infant passenger “Bob Jr.” remain inside the vehicle.
“As long as they are seat-belted in, nothing is going on,” said Estwick, who is running the demonstrations at the auto show.
In the second, Bob is unbuckled and the windows unrolled (the trooper notes the side windows would shatter when a person hits them anyway).
As it spins, one of Bob’s legs sticks out of the window and beats against the trailer over and over before Bob is launched.
Another demonstration ended with Bob’s head sticking out of the vehicle, pinned to the floor of the trailer by the Chevy’s cab.
“Darn near took his head off, killed that guy,” said Jane Stubbendick, 75, of Braddyville, Iowa, watching the demonstration. She comes to the auto show every year.
It’s a good example of what a partial ejection might be like, Estwick said. Many times, the vehicle lands on the person, leading to a variety of possibilities for horrible death, like being smothered. You are four times more likely to die in a rollover crash if you are not wearing a seat belt, he said.
Also in the cab is a backpack of grayish Army camouflage, which flies around in the cab. It’s meant as a lesson: Secure loose items, “so those things don’t become weapons in the event of an accident, because those things can be just as deadly as the accident itself.”
Sometimes Bob even smashes into Bob Jr.
“It doesn’t do you any good to restrain your children if you are not restrained,” Estwick said.
The seat belt convincer is a demonstration attendees can participate in. Participants are belted into a seat that slides about 15 feet before coming to a sudden stop against a rubber bumper. Those who try it out are only going 5-7 mph, but it provides a skull-rattling jolt.
This reporter’s teeth bounced against each other, and I threw up my hands.
“That’s the natural reaction for people,” Estwick said.
The point is this: If you are jarred at such low speeds while belted in, imagine what it would be like to crash at 50, 60, 70 mph while not wearing a seat belt.
Show visitors can also try driving the patrol’s distracted-driving simulator, where they attempt to drive while texting. Estwick and others will talk behind them, as if they were children acting up or rowdy passengers in the back of a car. Inevitably, the drivers crash. It’s a way of showing how dangerous distractions can be behind the wheel.
“We’re all distracted while we’re driving,” he said. “But let’s limit our distractions as much as we can.”
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