Mock crash reminds OCCHS students not to drink and drive
By JOHN BRANNON
Messenger Staff Reporter
Amid flashing lights of emergency vehicles, a drama unfolds at the scene of a two-car accident. Mangled metal, shattered glass, shattered lives.
Nearby, lying stone-still, a body on the ground. She looks to be 16, maybe 17. Someone walks over and covers her with a white sheet, head to toe.
It is said she died instantly when she was thrown out of one of the cars at the time of impact. She was one of four teens killed or injured.
Rescue personnel and law enforcement swarm around the cars. A Jaws of Life is brought over. The rescue squad works frantically to cut away twisted metal in order to free a teen who is pinned in a back seat.
A few yards away, a deputy sheriff questions one of the drivers, a teenager who is very unsteady on his feet. The officer administers a field sobriety test. The teen fails and is handcuffed and placed in a patrol car.
Suddenly, the sad silence at this scene of carnage is pierced by the staccato whump-whump rhythm of a helicopter’s rotor blades overhead. No combat ship, this, but an air ambulance dispatched to pick up victims and speed them to hospitals for treatment. The chopper sets down in a nearby field. Paramedics emerge and rush to one of the cars to help.
In minutes, the pinned teen is lifted up and out and placed on a body board and gurney. The gurney is guided to the helicopter. Quickly, it is back in the air and on its way. Later you learn, with heavy heart, that at the hospital the teen was declared brain dead; life support systems were removed.
Fortunately, the crash scene described above was all a performance staged for the benefit of about 300 students gathered on a little hillside near the football practice field at Obion County Central High School at 9 a.m. Thursday.
The crowd of students included the junior and senior classes and the drivers education class.
The many students stared as if stunned. All participants played their parts well, impressing on young minds the consequences of drinking and driving or foolishly getting into an automobile with a driver who has been drinking.
Included in the production cast were OCCHS seniors Maria Rodriguez, Garrett Montgomery, Chance Collins and Andrea Heuek, all of whom volunteered to be victims.
While rescue and law enforcement scrambled to rescue the wounded, Lt. Zane Smith of the Safety Education unit, Tennessee Highway Patrol, stood nearby and narrated the theatrics via a public address system.
Smith told them they were about to witness “a simulated, real life, drunken driving crash” presented in conjunction with the “Obion County Choices Program.” The program is sponsored by Regional Emergency Medical Services, Troy Police Department, Obion County Sheriff’s Department, the Tennessee Highway Patrol and the Obion County Rescue Squad. Buddy’s Wrecker Service contributed by delivering the two previously-wrecked cars to the outdoor classroom.
“The time is 10 a.m. Andrew and Chance are on their way home after dropping off their girlfriends from an all-night binge party following the senior prom,” he said.
Saturday night is prom night at OCCHS and Union City High School.
“After several hours of intense drinking and no sleep, Andrew collided with a Buick sedan carrying a teenage couple returning home from a community sponsored after-prom event,” Smith continued.
“Drinking and driving is all about choices. In the span of one second, one heartbeat, your life can change forever. The purpose of this exercise is to make you aware of the effects and consequences when you drink and drive.”
The presentation took about a half hour, start to finish. Smith and a contingent of THP officers also brought a roll-over vehicle to demonstrate what can happen during a vehicle rollover.
Smith said the THP has presented its program to high schools throughout the state.
OCCHS principal Linda Short said she was very impressed and pleased by the mock crash presentation. “I want to express my thanks and appreciation to all the people who participated,” she said.
She also expressed thanks to two OCCHS teachers — Heath Cunningham, who teaches criminal justice, and Mark Rich, who teaches driver education — for arranging for the presentation.
The message intended by the mock crash is a sobering message, as expressed by Mrs. Short.
“We hope we have raised the level of awareness of these students whose lives could be taken in an instant of bad judgment,” she said.
Some sobering statistics
According to Lt. Zane Smith of the Safety Education unit, Tennessee Highway Patrol:
• About 50 percent of all children killed in motor vehicle crashes are victims of alcohol-related crashes.
• Teenagers account for 10 percent of the U.S. poulation and 14 percent of motor vehicle deaths.
• About 6,000 teenagers die each year in alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes.
• 41 percent of fatal crashes involving teenagers occur between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.
• 52 percent of all motor vehicle crashes are alcohol-related.
• 80 percent of high school seniors have used alcohol and about 64 percent have been drunk.
• In 1997, 21 percent of young drivers 15-20 years old who were killed in crashes were intoxicated.
• On any given weekend, 1 out of 10 vehicles you pass is being driven by a drunk or drugged driver.
• About 32 percent of all Tennessee roadway fatalities are alcohol-related.
Published in The Messenger 4.25.08
mock crash, Obion County Central High School, Tennessee High Patrol
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