Prom night can be one of the most exciting and fun events in a young person’s life, but far too often it ends up becoming one of the most dangerous and life altering for high school students.
Vehicle-related incidents are already the No. 1 killer among teens and, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, around 1,000 individuals under the age of 21 are killed in traffic incidents following prom or graduation each year. According to the Center for Disease Control, one in five teens killed in car accidents have alcohol in their system.
For these reasons, on Monday morning, the Belgreen High School administration and Students Against Destructive Decisions staged a mock car crash with the help of the local law enforcement and emergency personnel.
“This is something that I’ve wanted to do for a few years now but could never really get it together,” said Belgreen teacher and S.A.D.D. contact Beth Lane. “This year I decided I was going to make it happen.”
Lane said it took her about three weeks to contact all of the needed agencies and offices to get the mock accident organized, but she said it was something that she believed was important for the students to see before their prom night on Thursday.
“I think it gives them a sense of how serious this is. I’ve seen first hand what drinking and driving can do and how it can affect people’s lives,” she said. “These students sometimes think they’re invincible and that’s not how it is.”
Officers from the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office and the Alabama State Troopers, as well as personnel from the Belgreen Volunteer Fire Department and Helen Keller EMS, arrived on the scene of the simulated car wreck with lights flashing and sirens blaring. An AirEvac helicopter was also brought in, landing on the Belgreen baseball field.
As the first responders worked on the scene, State Trooper Greg Baker explained to the students the steps taken following a deadly car crash and what the consequences were if someone – like the actor portraying the driver of one of the cars – were intoxicated at the time of the accident.
“These kids never mean any harm to anybody, but a lot of times they don’t take the consequences of what could happen seriously,” said Baker, a 10-year veteran Trooper. “In the situation we’ve staged, the driver would be charged with a DUI and vehicular homicide. Those are serious charges that could land someone in jail for a long time.”
According to Baker, 30 of the 32 fatal car accidents he has personally worked in his career involved alcohol. Last year, drunk drivers were involved in eight fatal crashes in Franklin County.
As an officer, Baker says the one of his most difficult duties is telling relatives that a loved one has been killed.
“One of the toughest things to do is tell your moms and dads that you’ve died,” he said. “There’s nothing I can say that will make them feel better or take away their grief, and those moments will stay with me forever.”
For the students, Lane had one last piece of advice.
“I know you’re young and you want to have fun, but I hope you see the seriousness of this,” she said. “Young people do die because of (drinking and driving). Take everything you’ve seen today seriously.”