Rock Hill students witness consequences of drunken driving after mock crash

rsouthmayd@heraldonline.comOctober 28, 2013 

There was a car accident on the front lawn of Sullivan Middle School on Monday afternoon. Several students were involved and plenty of first-responders were on hand to load them onto stretchers and into body bags.

But it wasn’t a real accident. And the entire eighth grade was watching as their fellow students – fake blood dripping down their faces – tried to show what could happen if someone drinks and drives.

“We just try to show these kids what could happen if they get into a vehicle under any kind of situation where they are impaired,” said Rock Hill Fire Capt. Herbie Lowery. “We do it to reach these kids before they start driving.”

The event was part of Red Ribbon Week, a nationwide week of activities to raise awareness about drugs, alcohol and violence prevention.

As their classmates watched, five eighth-graders crawled out from the staged car wreck, moaning in pain. Police, EMS, firefighters and a coroner came driving toward the school, sirens and lights on. And then they went through the motions of responding to a car accident, as each activity was explained to the students.

At first, the students laughed. They called out to their classmates on the other side of the caution tape jokingly, commenting on their acting jobs. Then it started to get quiet as a few of the students stopped moving

“They sobered up really quick on their own,” assistant principal Jennise Knight said. “It started to hit home.”

Some students were so affected by what was playing out in front of them that they had to go inside, she said.

Three of the students participating were covered with white sheets, then placed in blue body bags, which were zipped up and wheeled away. One of those was Brian Goodman. When it was over, as he lay in a body bag behind the county coroner’s truck, he said he was glad his friends had to watch the simulation.

“At first, a lot of them were distracting, laughing and yelling,” Goodman said. “But then, the reason they were trying to get me to stop acting was because they didn’t want it to be real.”

One student, Raynelle Benson, played the part of the driver who had consumed alcohol and gotten behind the wheel. While her friends were examined for injuries, Benson failed a series of sobriety tests administered by a police officer, then was handcuffed and placed in the back of a police car.

“It’s an experience we all have to learn,” she said after it was over.

Her fellow student actor, who was also placed in a body bag, said if students think the whole simulation was funny now, they won’t take drinking and driving seriously.

“They’re probably going to do it one day and think it’s all funny,” said Ariel Farrell. “But it’s not.”

Another actor, who also “died,” said he wanted to participate in the simulation to educate his friends.

“I’ve heard of many people getting in drunk accidents and how it affects them, and I don’t want to see my friends getting in an accident,” Jalen Peake said.

At least two Sullivan students seemed to get the message. Zoe Johanson and Joshawn Robinson both said they were glad Sullivan held this event for them.

“You can take it as a joke, but it’s serious stuff,” Robinson said. Other students “think that that’s not going to really happen to them, but they don’t know what could happen in the future.”

Some students resist taking warnings like this seriously, Johanson said, because they want to be open-minded.

“Seeing your friends die right before your eyes, it’s like reality hit,” she said. “I wouldn’t be drunk driving or texting, seeing that now.”

Throughout the presentation, students were reminded that they don’t have to get behind the wheel if they are under the influence, and that they should call for help because accidents and outcomes like the ones they watched are preventable.

Rachel Southmayd •  803-329-4072

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