I buckled into the mock car seat, yanking the straps a little — OK, a lot — tighter than I would a true seat belt.
“Are you ready?” two Nebraska state troopers asked me.
Slowly, the seat started tipping to my left. It came to a jolting stop once I had completely flipped over.
I dangled there for a few seconds, hair skimming the ground. I lost track of whether my hands still rested on the faux steering wheel. One thing was certain: The seat belt was the only thing holding me up.
While much slower than a real rollover crash, the simulator from the Nebraska State Patrol is designed to encourage users to wear a seat belt.
“We want no fatalities,” Trooper Kevin Chase said. “One is too many.”
The simulator, dubbed “The Persuader,” is on display this weekend at the Midlands International Auto Show at the CHI Health Center. (The show is produced by the Omaha World-Herald.)
The Persuader has been in the patrol’s rotation for safety demonstrations for about three years, Chase said, and people seem to like it. During a trip to the Nebraska State Fair, about 4,000 people tried it, he said.
Seat belts are important all the time, even if the vehicle isn’t rolling over, said Trooper Bruce Okamoto. If a vehicle is swaying, a seat belt keeps the driver behind the wheel.
Not wearing a seat belt also can cause a passenger to bounce around inside the vehicle and collide with other passengers, Okamoto said.
Setting up at the auto show, with its shiny cars, SUVs and motorcycles, allows troopers a chance to talk to drivers about safety.
“We want them to buckle up and put the distractions away,” Chase said. Whatever else the drivers are looking at, he said, “It will wait. You have one job: drive.”