As a group of onlookers held their collective breath, the green pickup truck sped toward the small red sedan.

As a group of onlookers held their collective breath, the green pickup truck sped toward the small red sedan.

Even though they knew the crash was staged, the sight and sound of the impact caused a momentary hush, followed by a rush to see the impact aftermath.

As expected, the passengers -- crash-test dummies -- survived, but those that weren't strapped in were seriously "injured" when the pickup, traveling 40 mph, hit the red car, which was still.

In both vehicles, the unbelted passengers hit the windshields and the dashboards and probably hit the belted driver and other passengers, as well.

The controlled crash occurred May 29 along a stretch of roadway on the west side of McCord Park, next to the Worthington Community Center.

It was sponsored by the Worthington Division of Police and Scientific Expert Analysis, a worldwide forensic and product research company headquartered in Worthington.

The purpose was to provide a visual and dramatic reminder of the importance of seat belts as part of the national Click It or Ticket campaign, Sgt. Stephen Mette said.

With onlookers behind concrete barriers, the truck quickly reached 40 mph before crashing into the car, sending it skidding and the unbelted passengers flying around the inside of the vehicles.

Afterward, everyone had a closeup look at the grim aftermath.

"As you can see, there was one unbelted passenger in the pickup and one in the sedan," Mette said. "Both made windshield contact."

Also, the unbelted passengers likely made contact with the belted passengers, and a crash-test baby improperly placed in a car seat likely was damaged when it hit the back of the front seat.

Most people don't realize they also put fellow passengers at risk when they don't wear seat belts, police said. An unbelted passenger or driver likely would be tossed about the inside of the car, hitting other people, including children.

In this case, neither vehicle had an air bag. But an unbelted occupant in a crash with an air bag is still putting himself and other occupants at risk, said John Wiechel, a mechanical engineer with SEA.

Instead of hitting the windshield, the unbelted passengers probably would have hit the ceiling, he said.

A passenger who was belted with an air bag would not have hit anything, he said.

Mette said he began planning the staged accident about a year ago to visually demonstrate the importance of seat-belt use.

Police Chief James Mosic complimented the sergeant for his hard work and willingness to take a risk in planning and successfully executing the crash.

"Everything worked out well, and this was a horrible collision," Mosic said.

SEA, 7349 Worthington-Galena Road, is a worldwide leader in forensic analysis, investigation and product testing.

The firm provides scientific expert analysis for a wide range of services to reveal the cause of vehicle, product, material, fire, electrical and/or structural failures and mitigate the risks involved with new product introductions.

The firm employs 215 associates nationwide.