The next time you have to chauffeur yourself to the Motor Vehicle Administration in Glen Burnie (yawn) on urgent bureaucratic business, I’m thinking you might be a little bit bored and daydream-distracted, and therefore, completely unprepared for the stunning surprise that awaits. I don’t want you to be alarmed and swallow your gum when you see what they’ve erected out there! I want you to be prepared like the good driver I know that you are: seat-belt-fastened; focused; ready for anything.
That’s why I’m driven to remind you in this public service announcement: There’s a huge, bright yellow crash test dummy standing in front of the place! Huge? Yeah, huge. Thirty feet tall (five times bigger than the actual simulation-study dummies); two tons on the dummy scale; rendered most authentically with action-figure joints and serious, if vague, close-mouthed expression. This androgynous dummy not only towers but knows how to tighten a seat belt, so how dumb can he/she be?
Last November, the statue was erected at the state MVA headquarters to raise awareness about seat belts; but the mega-dummy made his/her real debut at Artscape last summer.
Though the $63,000 statue financed by federal grant is officially unnamed, state workers have cleverly tagged it “Lamont,” which is of course a pop-cultural reference to comedian Redd Foxx’s “You big dummy” line aimed at his character’s only child, Lamont, on the sitcom “Sanford and Son.”
Like me, MVA officials were a little worried that the dummy might distract drivers, but in the end decided that the art-for-safety project made good practical sense. (I definitely agree!)
“We had a tremendous amount of thought about that,” John Kuo, MVA administrator, told The Baltimore Sun.
“It’s an awesome reminder,” Ragina C. Averella of AAA Mid-Atlantic said (in the same story). “It’s big enough that you can’t miss it.”
In the year leading up to the statue’s unveiling, official reports tallied a record low number of motorist deaths. Not low enough for Kuo, who lost two siblings in a car crash when he was 12.
“Can you imagine, we only lost 500 people [in 2011] and that’s a reason to be happy?” said Kuo in The Sun. “Why do we accept the loss of life on our roads?”
“Seat belts are our best defense against the laws of physics,” Michele Fields, general counsel to the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, told The Sun. “Every trip, every seat position, the belt works.”
Leading causes of fatal accidents, in fact: speeding; driving while intoxicated; not wearing a belt. Even though Marylanders buckle up roughly 95 percent of the time, which is way better than the U.S. average of 80 percent, we can do even better. Let Lamont serve as a helpful reminder, a wake-up call–but don’t let him scare you on your ho-hum way to the MVA!
Have you seen the dummy? What do you think?!
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