July 23, 2014

Students learn perils of drinking and driving

Amy Cunningham
acunningham@gardnernews.com

On Friday morning Spring Hill High School juniors and seniors were witness to what might happen if two of their own made the poor decision to get behind the wheel while under the influence.

The SHHS Students Against Destructive Decisions club (SADD), along with the Spring Hill police

At a mock drunk-driving accident at Spring Hill High School, a student declared “dead” is covered by a blanket, while fire and rescue crews work on a passenger who had to be cut from the wreckage. Staff photos by Amy Cunningham

department, presented a mock wreck in the high school’s parking lot to demonstrate the importance of making wise driving choices.  The message is even more important in light of the rapidly approaching prom and graduation seasons.  Several additional first responders including the Johnson County Sheriff’s Department, Johnson County Fire District and Don’s Tow Service also participated to make the scene as realistic as possible.

“Thousands of students every year during the prom season make the poor choice to drink and drive and thousands of students every year are injured and tragically killed in car crashes as a result of drinking and driving. Texting and driving is almost as serious as drinking and driving and, quite frankly, it can have the same results,” school resource officer Ken Oziah said. “During prom season, a lot of students get the idea that they’re invincible, but in the blink of an eye their entire worlds can change.”

Students were summoned out to the school’s parking lot, the scene of a “wreck” between two cars belonging to fellow SHHS students. Just like a real accident, a witness placed a call to 911 and first responders arrived on the scene – first the Spring Hill Police Department and then the Sheriff’s Department. Following closely behind were the Johnson County Fire District and ambulance service. Students looked on while the scene was assessed and worked as though it were real.

The groups involved hope that showing students a realistic looking accident scene will resonate during prom and graduation season; their goal is to keep students from making the potentially deadly decision to get behind the wheel while intoxicated or to text while driving.

SHHS senior Morgan Muth wears goggles that simulate drunkenness as she tries to pass a field sobriety test. Staff photo by Amy Cunningham

The accident was staged with two cars in a head-on collision.  A student drunk driver drove one car involved in the wreck. The Jaws of Life rescued two passengers in that car from the wreckage. Students looked on as the front seat passenger was declared dead.  The other car, driven by a drunk driver who was sending text messages, saw two passengers removed by crews from the Johnson County Fire District and two passengers who did not survive the crash.

As officials assessed the scene they covered those student-actors who did not survive with the crash with blankets.  Students looked on with stunned silence as their classmates were subjected to sobriety tests. All the while Oziah offered play-by-play commentary to drive home the point that drinking and driving and texting and driving can have tragic results.

Spring Hill High School teacher Stephanie Hojnacki, said that students should be encouraged to make healthy choices because their well-being is a concern to the people around them.

“I really do care. Even when you mess up, I really want to see you tomorrow,” said Hojnacki, who is also one of the school’s SADD sponsors.  “As a teacher I couldn’t imagine that would be the reason I wouldn’t have a kid sitting in my front row or in my back row.  I couldn’t imagine that bad decisions would be the reason, that drinking and choosing to drive would mean that I would lose a kid from one of my classes.”

She said that witnessing a mock crash scene was eye opening for students, offering a more realistic picture of what might happen should they choose to drive impaired.

“The kids need to see an up close and personal view of what could happen if they choose to make a poor decision,” she stated. “They felt like they finally got a real view.  You still have kids who think, ‘Oh, this will never happen to me,’ but now we’ve got some kids who think ‘OK, now I’ll rethink some things.’  One of the biggest impacts is seeing your friends carried off, either to an ambulance or (in a body bag).”

SHHS prom is April 16 and students will have the mock crash fresh in their minds.  One of the student actors, Morgan Muth, SHHS senior, said that she hopes her group’s efforts will reinforce to others how important it is to make good driving decisions.

“We’re trying to get a point across to them,” she stated.  “I hope they understand what we’re trying to tell them.”

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