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Nebraska State Patrol Trooper Charlie Cook put his “convincer” to work on Saturday afternoon, offering a quick education on the power of speed involving even the slowest of collisions.

Savannah Leach, of Seward, was quick to mount the State Patrol’s Seat Belt Convincer and Driving Simulator demonstration during the annual Bellwood Daze celebration and learn the measure of force container in a collision speeds as low 5 mph (1,000 pounds of force).

The 9-year-old, who said she was often reminded by family members to use seat belts when she is riding in vehicles, helped Cook strap her into the simulator for a short 5 mph trip of about 10 feet, interrupted by an abrupt stop when the machine hit a stationary object.

“That was fun and exciting,” said Leach, who had taken a trial run on the Convincer when it visited the Bellwood community celebration a year ago.

Her reaction was similar to Bellwood's 9-year-old Ana Swantec, who also rode the Convincer a year ago and got the same feelings of thrill and joy from her second demonstration of the machine.

Some children, said Cook, treat the crash convincer akin to the thrills of a carnival ride, but there are others that see it as an education tool that gives them a glimpse into the power represented by highway crash at increasing speeds, he said.

“It makes an impression with some about what power is behind crashes (between vehicles traveling at speeds of 30 to 60 mph), Cook said. “Some people need that wakeup call.”

From April through June, troopers utilize the Seat Belt Convincer, Driving Simulator and the Rollover Simulator to conduct more than 100 safety presentations reaching some 30,000 people across the state with the message that seat belts save lives and to always buckle up.

In a few weeks, Cook and other troopers will be equipped with a roll-over simulator - the cab of a standard Chevrolet S-10 pickup truck attached to a machine that spins it at 30 mph – during the days of the Nebraska State Fair. Cook only had a few young people take a ride on the Convincer during Saturday’s demonstration, but he expects to have hundreds pay a visit to the state fair demonstration.

The demonstration includes a the roll-over simulator, commonly referred to as the “Persuader,” with a life-sized adult and baby mannequin that are placed in the car children and shows what happens when the car rolls while people are using their seat belts.

The adult stays in his seat, even when the car stops upside down. When the belt is unbuckled and the car begins to spin, the occupants begin to be ejected, resulting in rollover fatalities that are much more prevalent when seat belts are not in use, Cook said.

Former State Trooper Jane Tooley, of Columbus, wandered over to the demonstration site Saturday to chat with Bellwood Volunteer firefighter Rodney Bell and Cook.

“It’s hard to tell who you’re going to run into at one of the public events with the Convincer,” said Cook, pointing to his friend, the first woman to retire from the patrol as a trooper about a decade ago.

In addition to exchanging pleasantries, Tooley wanted to pitch the good deeds of the State Patrol Foundation and the non-public funds raised for the organization.

The funds go for extras such as safety demonstration equipment and the nearly 20-year Interstate 80 courtesy van program that aids motorists who have a vehicle breakdown or run out of gas.

Many of the drivers of those vans, Cook said, are retired former state troopers.

Jim Osborn is a reporter for The Banner-Press. Reach him via email at jim.osborn@lee.net.

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Jim Osborn is a news reporter at The Columbus Telegram.

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