Kyle Slavic had never before felt the pinch of handcuffs around his wrists. Across Washington County, Ryan Innes also was led off in handcuffs after he was found guilty by a jury of his peers.
While the two teenagers have never really been in trouble with the law, they and fellow students learned Wednesday the painful consequences of driving while intoxicated.
Students at Ringgold and Chartiers-Houston high schools participated in mock crashes designed to serve as a warning before proms scheduled for Friday at both schools.
If he had been involved in a real fatal drunken-driving crash, then the next step for Slavic would have been an appearance before a district judge who likely would have set bail at $100,000 at the arraignment, Michael Lucas, Washington County first assistant district attorney, told the students assembled around the two wrecked cars in the parking lot outside Ringgold High School.
“In 10 days, he would go to court for a preliminary hearing and then wait six months to a year before going to trial,” Lucas said. “If found guilty, he could be spending 10 to 12 years in jail for one bad decision. He could never work as a teacher or coach his kids in sports.
“Sit back and think how serious this gets,” Lucas told the students.
Slavic, a senior at Ringgold, said he’s a good kid. And after playing the role of a suspected drunken driver in the crash, he said it makes him want to stay that way.
“I don’t even know if I want to drink when I turn 21,” Slavic said. “Drunk driving has a bad impact on you. I hope this made an impression on the other kids.”
Nichole Bush, a senior at Chartiers-Houston, played one of the victims killed in the mock crash. During the victim-impact portion of the mock court proceedings for Innes, a junior portraying a driver who was intoxicated and sending a text message at the time of the crash, Bush choked up as she talked.
“I was supposed to go to Duquesne University,” Bush said. “What about all the things I won’t get to do like have a family. We were all sober in the car we were in, but we were in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Innes, at the conclusion of his hearing, said it is something that happens to other kids at other schools.
“It was a selfish decision without considering the consequences,” Innes said.
While Ringgold regularly holds mock crashes around the time of the prom, this is the first time it has been so extensive, said assistant high school principal Jason Marvin. In addition to emergency personnel and Lucas, District Attorney Gene Vittone and Washington County Coroner Tim Warco and his deputy Tim Kegel also participated.
“I believe this is a wake-up call for them” Marvin said. “If it saves one life, then it will have been worth it.”
Chartiers police Sgt. Charles Harton told the Chartiers-Houston students at the assembly that he has seen far too many fatal crashes caused by drunken drivers over his career.
“We deal with the real thing,” Harton said of the police, firefighters and emergency medical personnel who assisted in putting on the program. “Drunk driving doesn’t just affect one person. Once it happens, you just can’t say you are sorry.”