STEVENSVILLE — Thursday, Oct. 7, the Kent Island Rotary Club sponsored a simulated vehicle rollover demonstration for all senior and junior students at Kent Island High School to see during their lunch periods. The demonstration was held outside behind the school building and arranged through the Maryland Department of Transportation Occupant Protection & Distracted Driving Program.

A vehicle simulator was provided with a manikin inside the cab, at first with its seat belt on for the first rollover demonstration, and then, with the seat belt taken off for the second demonstration. The difference between the two demonstrations was clear. While wearing the seat belt, the manikin’s head was protected. However, once the seat belt was removed, and the vehicle was rolled over again, the manikin became a projectile inside the vehicle, and literally tossed from side to side inside the cab. Eventually, the manikin was ejected out of either the driver side or passenger side windows, which were down. Many of the students who watched had strong emotional reactions watching the manikin get tossed. It appeared the message of the demonstration got across to the students, “Wear your seat belt to protect your life!”

Before one of the lunchtime meetings, Queen Anne’s County Sheriff Gary Hofmann addressed the students, “In my years with the Sheriff’s Office,” Hofmann said, “I have unfortunately, driven up on accident scenes where I have seen horrible sights of young people who have died in crashes because they were not wearing a seat belt. Many were ejected from the vehicle they were riding in. Their deaths were very tragic, seeing that it could have been prevented had they been wearing their seat belt!”

MDOT Program Manager for Occupant Protection & Distracted Driving Mark Wall also spoke to the students as the simulator demonstration took place. Wall informed the students, “The current fine for not wearing your seat belt is $83 dollars. If you’re not wearing your seat belt and there are passengers in the vehicle with you who are also not wearing seat belts, you can be fined up to $83 for each person without a seat belt as well.”

The first mandatory seat belt use law in Maryland went into effect July 1, 1986. According to Hofmann, “The original fine for not wearing a seat belt was $25.” It has increased significantly over the years. The law now also states all passengers in any vehicle must wear a seat belt, which was not the case in 1986, when only people riding in the front seats of vehicles were required. In recent years, the law was changed to include everyone in the vehicle.

Other meaningful statistics were shared with students during the demonstration including: “One in 10 Marylanders don’t buckle up while driving.” And, “Did you know? Occupants who are ejected in rollover crashes are four times more likely to die.”

KIHS Principal Sean Kenna said, “Any parent who has a new driver, know the anxiety associated with watching them drive away for the first time. As a high school principal, that is multiplied by about 600 year for me, so any chance I get to drive home the messages of safety behind the wheel, you bet I will take advantage of it. We many never know, but a simple message like this one today, might just save a life.”

KI Rotary Youth Services and Education Chair Bohdanna “Bo” Gott, who contacted MDOT to arrange for the demonstration, said, “The Rotary of Kent Island Club’s vision and mission is for people to come together to share ideas, join other leaders, and take action to improve the quality of life for people in our community, in Maryland, and throughout the world. Founded on the precept of ‘Service Above Self’, all of Rotary’s projects focus on the needs of others rather than the needs of the organization. As part of our objective to support the youth in our community, we facilitated the demonstration of the MDOT rollover simulator at Kent Island High School.”

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