It was a harsh lesson, but one that needed to be taught.
A mock crash was conducted on the West Greene High School football field last Thursday, two days before the students’ high school prom. In the bleachers were 275 students watching as emergency responders poured onto the field.
The scenario they laid out went like this: A car with two teenagers who are leaving a party following their prom crashes into another vehicle. One teen is killed and two in the second vehicle are seriously injured. Alcohol is a factor.
This demonstration, using vehicles from a local junkyard, was designed to show students what can happen if someone drives under the influence of alcohol. One person was shown to have died at the scene, another had to be flown by helicopter to a hospital and a third was arrested for DUI.
If all this seems over-dramatic, consider adolescents sometimes have to be shocked to get their attention.
The warning is especially necessarily during the prom season, and if it deters just a few from drinking and then getting behind the wheel, it should be considered a success.
Last year, about 30 percent of the highway fatalities in Pennsylvania involved drunken drivers, so what the students saw on the field is all too common in real life.
Drinking and driving don’t mix, and that was the message organizers wanted to bring home to the students. It all goes back to choices, said principal Scott Sakai: “We want the students to be aware of the choices they make and how those choices may impact them and others. Unfortunately, the choice to drive drunk is one a lot of people make all too often.”
The mock crash was organized by the Center Township Volunteer Fire Company, in conjunction with the school district and with the assistance of others, including EMS Southwest ambulance, Richhill Volunteer Fire Company’s ambulance, state police, Greene County sheriff’s office and Lifeflight.
That may seem like a lot of manpower to get a simple message across, but if it made an impression on just one teen who may have gotten behind the wheel Saturday night after drinking, then it was worth it.
Charles Jones, Center Township fire chief, said the purpose of the event was to make students aware that three or four hours of fun at the prom can go south in a very short time by doing something stupid. We couldn’t agree more. Few of the students have ever had the opportunity to view the scene of an actual crash as bad as the one played out on the West Greene High School field. The idea, said Amy Deter, chairman of the fire company’s fire prevention committee, was to let students know what goes on following a crash, hoping part of it will stay with them.
After the demonstration, one student commented, “I think it’s an eye-opener.”
As proms are underway and graduations are a few weeks away, we want to offer a sobering reminder to teens and their parents that a moment of distraction or carelessness behind the wheel can have permanent and tragic consequences, unrelated to alcohol.
Crash risks can be reduced through practice, limiting the number of passengers riding with a teen driver, obeying all rules of the road and exercising common sense. Above all, buckle up. There is simply no better way to avoid fatal injury than using seat belts.
And perhaps the best advice we can give at this celebratory time is don’t talk or text while driving. No phone call is worth your life or someone else’s.