A convincing ride for wearing seat belts
When it comes to wearing a seat belt, some people need convincing. However, with the arrival of a Seat Belt Convincer (SBC) at the regional high school yesterday, many students may find one ride convincing enough to make buckling up a habit.
The SBC is a gift to Martha's Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) from Tom and Barbara Furino, founders of MV Drive for Life, and member Peter Rosbeck.
Mr. Rosbeck never forgot the day the police brought an SBC, a contraption that looked like part of an amusement ride, to his high school. Buckled into a seat and catapulted down a track to simulate a car crash at about 5 to 10 mph, Mr. Rosbeck said the force he experienced at such a slow speed shocked him. "I always remember buckling up my seat belt after that," he said.
Regional high school students Shelagh Kelley, Krista Ben David, Marguerite Cogliano, Stephen Perry, and Bastille Lucier needed no convincing to climb aboard a Seat Belt Convincer yesterday. In front, from left, are Peter Rosbeck, Barbara Furino, State Police Sgt. Neal Maciel, Tom Furino, and Edgartown Police Officer David Rossi, representing MV Drive for Life. Photo by Ralph Stewart
After some safety checks and the arrival of some warmer weather in the weeks ahead, all MVRHS students will be given the opportunity to experience Mr. Rosbeck's memorable ride on an SBC. State Police Sergeant Neal Maciel and Edgartown Police Officer David Rossi, both MV Drive for Life board members, have offered to operate the device.
Once a passenger is buckled into the device's single seat, it slides down a track and collides with front bumpers. The rider experiences the force of up to five times his or her body weight, similar to the impact of a 5 to 10 mph crash.
Bastille Lucier, an MVRHS senior and captain of the football team, climbed aboard the SBC yesterday to mark its historical arrival, as did junior Shelagh Kelley and seniors Krista Ben David, Stephen Perry, and Marguerite Cogliano, an active participant in the school's Safe Rides program.
"You have to wear a seat belt," Mr. Lucier said emphatically. His firm belief comes from experience, he explained. Recently, while stopped at a red light, his truck was rammed from behind. Neither he nor his cousin were injured, because they were wearing seat belts, he said.
The SBC purchase for the high school resulted from a casual conversation between Mr. Rosbeck, owner of Rosbeck Builders Corporation, and his friend Mr. Furino, a stonemason. After recalling the impact the SBC had on him, Mr. Rosbeck suggested they look into purchasing one for the high school.
He and Mr. Furino checked first with MVRHS Principal Peg Regan, who serves on the MV Drive for Life executive committee. "Anything to make our children more aware about the dangers of not wearing a seat belt," she told them.
The cost of a new SBC ranges from $12,000 to $14,000, Mr. Furino found out. He searched the Internet for a "gently used" SBC and found one available for $4,000 in California. Mr. Rosbeck offered to pay half. Since the funds donated so far for MV Drive for Life are earmarked for the purchase of a driving simulator, the Furinos paid for the other half of the SBC's cost.
Mr. Furino managed to talk the owner down on the used SBC's price to $2,300. Told it could use a new coat of paint, he agreed to spend $300 to repaint it bright blue. Shipping the SBC on a flatbed truck cost another $1,800, bringing the price to $4,400.
The truck carrying the SBC stopped in North Carolina. From there, the device was supposed to be removed from the flatbed truck and put behind a smaller truck for towing to Woods Hole.
Uncertain about the condition of the convincer's wheel bearings, Mr. Furino took the precaution of having them repacked before the drive. Ever safety-conscious, he remarked, "That's another lesson we try to teach the kids. The condition of your vehicle is part of driver's safety."
Mr. Furino and his wife founded MV Drive for Life in memory of their son David, who, with his best friend Kevin Johnson, both MVRHS students, died in a car accident almost three years ago. The organization promotes establishing networks between public, private, and government partners to make technologically advanced driver's education available for every teen, and to bring driver's education back into all high schools in Massachusetts.
Ms. Furino and Kevin's mother, Anne Johnson, started a campaign before prom and graduation promoting seat belt use in 2005 in memory of their sons. They gave away free bumper stickers that read "Buckle up for A.J. and Deebo." The campaign continues this year with bumper stickers printed in the school's colors, purple and white, reading, "Buckle up for David and Kevin."
MV Drive for Life has made arrangements for 200 MVRHS students to attend Skidz School in West Boylston this spring to learn accident avoidance maneuvers on a specially designed driving course. The organization also is raising funds to purchase a driving simulator for the high school.
Students have donated $202 to MV Drive for Life, thanks to Mr. Lucier's suggestion to set up a donation collection jar in the cafeteria.