Troopers use rollover simulator in warning to wear seatbelts
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi routinely leads the country in teen traffic fatalities, a fact that law enforcement and family groups are working to battle.
Texting and other distractions can be a part of that, as can speed and drinking. Many cases come from road hazards and other vehicles, too, but one thing increases the risk of death or serious injury in all of those kinds of wrecks: Not wearing a seatbelt.
“I can’t believe in 2018 we still have people who refuse to wear seatbelts and refuse to restrain their children,” said Mississippi Department of Corrections Commissioner Marshall Fisher.
Given that teenagers sometimes seem to believe they’re bulletproof, reaching them with messages of road safety can be imperative, officials said.
On Monday, Families First for Mississippi and the Mississippi Highway Patrol announced a new brick in the partnerships being built to keep kids — and adults — safe on the roads.
MHP has long driven the length and width of the state with their one rollover simulator, which simulates a vehicle flipping at about 45 miles per hour. When mannequins are put inside, the audience can see how a body without a seatbelt is tossed around a car and is ultimately ejected.
Families First has donated another rollover simulator in order to bolster the resources that can be used to reach Mississippi teens with just how serious a rollover wreck can be.
“We have hundreds, well actually thousands of youth who are stepping up in local high and communities and getting involved with safety,” said Nancy New, adding that when MHP brings the simulator, it gets people’s attention. “The kids love it and the grownups do as well, because we need to be reminded to wear our seatbelts too.”
MHP Director Col. Chris Gillard said 268 Mississippians who were not wearing their seatbelts lost their lives in crashes on Mississippi roads and highways in 2017. One out of every two people killed on the roads are not buckled up, Gillard said.
“You don’t recognize a human being when it comes out of the car so fast and so far, it’s like no way possible that’s a human coming out of that car,” said Sgt. Criss Turnipseed. “But upon closer inspection you see what happens. The videos we show them of the rollovers are probably the most shocking things the kids see. It gets a lot of attitudes where they’re like, ‘I’m not going to wear my seatbelt,’ but a lot of them after seeing this, their opinions change.
“That’s our goal is to get people to see what we see first-hand without having to experience it.”
In 2017, troopers wrote 20,621 seatbelt citations and 3,675 child restraints. Nationally 90 percent of drivers report wearing seatbelts, but in Mississippi it’s only 77.9 percent, Gillard said. That’s among the lowest of all the states in the nation.
“We are thankful to be part of MS Families First and thankful for their commitment to informing the public of the importance in wearing seatbelts,” Gillard said.
Capt. Johnny Poulos said law enforcement officials are aware that the public gets desensitized to traffic safety campaigns sometimes, but it helps to show them the reality of the situations they could face on the road.
“This rollover simulator will be vital to spreading the safety message across the state,” said Poulos.
Such resources as the rollover simulator are important for building bridges between law enforcement and youth as well, Fisher said.
“It starts at home... It’s important to us in law enforcement that our youth understand we’re your friends, and we want a relationship with our youth,” Fisher said. “Tools like this when they’re donated will save lives, and it will get some attention, and that’s important.”
Information from: The Clarion Ledger, http://www.clarionledger.com