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LAUSANNE, SWITZERLAND – The hugely popular Comptoir Suisse show starts in Lausanne Saturday 14 September and one of its more unusual stands will be that of the Vaud police road safety team.
Journalists were given a taste this week of what visitors to the show can expect as part of the police team’s accident prevention efforts.
Our bonus: we saw one of the newly renovated 1976 Harley Davidsons that belong to Vaud Police, used only by officers “of a certain rank”.
Seatbelts: the proof is in the roll
To start, the police will be bringing an unusual car to the show, one that doesn’t go anywhere except around, and around and around.
The special car is taken around the canton regularly to schools, to teach 10- and 11-year-olds the importance of wearing seatbelts.
“It works”, says one of the officers, who says boys and girls often ask questions about the accidents the police themselves have been involved in or covered in the line of duty.
The car certainly makes an impact, in every sense.
I opted to see in the driver’s seat, having been told it makes you feel a little more secure.
One officer starts the machine that “rolls” the car several times in one direction before it slows, pauses and swings a bit, then rolls a couple times in the other direction.
I gripped the steering wheel as hard as I could, knowing that makes no sense.
My passenger and I agreed at the end that our heads were sore since you can’t help but bump your head in a rolling car, but at least they were only sore.
We were lucky: neither of us had loose coins or other objects in our pockets.
The weight of any unattached object in a rolling car that is going 50kph is multiplied by 30.
Consider what that means if a person in the car is not wearing a seatbelt and hits other passengers, in addition to the danger to him- or herself.
Police suggest that while you can’t tie down every object in your car you should never travel with items that are higher than head level.
A few facts about in-car safety
- The impact if you are not wearing a seatbelt and a car is going 50 kph is equal to falling from a three-storey building
- Seatbelts are nearly 100 percent effective in preventing injuries if a car rolls, without major damage to the car; that falls to about 52 percent for head-on crashes and about 20 percent for side crashes
- Drivers and passengers without seatbelts are often injured when they are thrown from the car
- some 8,000 people in canton Vaud alone are involved in a road accident every year
- 60 lives could be saved every year in Switzerland if seatbelts were used without fail
- the greatest number of serious injuries occur in accidents close to home, often during very short drives.
Students, says one of the officers, are sobered to learn that the police often find people who have been crushed by a car after they were thrown from it, as it rolls.
Visually drunk drivers get a sobering view of themselves
Switzerland’s legal alcohol limit for drivers is 0.5/1,000, the equivalent of roughly one glass of wine.
But since drinking impairs our judgement, we often think our reaction time and our view of the road is just fine.
The police will be visiting the Comptoir Suisse with specially designed glasses that let you test your ability to do things having drunk alcohol at levels of 1.0 and 1.5.
Note that only adults are allowed to try this.
The test run for the journalists involved trying to walk between road cones without bumping into them, trying to cross a fake stream with flagstones without getting our feet wet, then climbing stairs, finding the house key and unlocking the door before getting through it and relocking it.
As if that wasn’t enough we had to then step over the sleeping family dog to tiptoe to bed.
All I can say is, it’s really, really a good idea not to drink and drive, with judgement as skewered as mine and my colleagues’!
Try it. I can’t say you’ll like it, but you’ll think again before taking the wheel after a party.