June 1, 2016

Local Organizations Team With High School, Deliver the Message: “Don’t Drink and Drive”


CONSEQUENCES: Funeral home workers prepare to take the accident victim’s body to the hearse, as more than 800 high school students watch the drunk driving simulation on Walnut Street last Thursday, presented by rescue squad, police, student actors, and others. (Photo Courtesy of Wendy Jolley)

The message is simple and familiar: “Don’t drink and drive. Don’t text and drive. Don’t get high and drive,” stated Princeton High School (PHS) senior Katie Vasquez, co-president of SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) and member of the student board at Corner House. 

Last Thursday at 9:30 a.m., Princeton Police, Fire Department, Rescue Squad, and Mather Hodge Funeral Home teamed up with Corner House, SADD and the school tech and grounds departments to deliver that message powerfully and dramatically to more than 800 PHS juniors and seniors and a visiting contingent of about 30 Stuart Country Day School seniors.

Seated on bleachers on the side of Walnut Lane outside the High School, the students watched a simulation of the grisly aftermath of a car collision, as police and medical teams — and eventually a hearse, responded to the event and dealt with the victims.

The goal, according to Corner House Board Chair Wendy Jolley, is “to keep kids safe and to show them that life can change in a second. I’ve had kids I’d never met approach me after the presentation to say: ‘Mrs. Jolley, I promise I’ll never drink and drive.’” The simulation event has been staged once every two years for all PHS juniors and seniors.

“We are making this presentation as real as we can,” rescue squad narrator Greg Paulson told the assembled students. “We are showing you this in the hope that you never have an experience like this.”

Standing in front of two wrecked vehicles containing the student actors playing the roles of the victims, Ms. Vasquez added, “This event takes place 1.3 million times a year as a result of drunk driving, also texting, driving high, stopping paying attention. You could kill somebody. My work with SADD and Corner House has taught me that I am responsible for my decisions.”

Tarps were lifted from the cars and the scene of the wreck was fully revealed: a young woman thrown through the windshield onto the hood of the compact car, blood on the car and the street, beer bottle on the ground, multiple occupants inside both vehicles, and the sound of the radio dispatcher’s voice: “Where is your emergency?”

A police officer arrived and opened a car door. “Are you OK?” Sirens, an ambulance, then more police, paramedics. The huge EMS Technical Rescue Van arrived. More than a dozen workers were on the scene as the body of the bleeding girl, pronounced dead on arrival, was moved away from the vehicles. The walking wounded were receiving attention, including oxygen, from EMT workers.

The emergency workers broke the windshields of the cars and used the hydraulic jaws of life to cut through metal roof supports and remove the passengers trapped inside the mini-van and take them to the ambulance.

The hearse arrived and the dead body was covered and carried to the vehicle. Her obituary was read.

A police officer then gave a sobriety test to the 17-year-old driver of the compact car. He had obviously been drinking illegally and was arrested.

After the hour-long presentation, the subdued crowd, silent and attentive throughout, returned to the high school for a de-briefing and question-and-answer session. They obviously had received the intended message about the consequences of irresponsible choices. “It was extremely emotional,” said senior Matthew Ames. “That had an effect on everybody. Seems like this does happen. It makes me want to be more responsible and take more responsibility for others.”

Junior Rachna Ammanamanchi added, “This was very useful — good that the school did this. It shows us what could happen if we put ourselves in this situation. It’s good to know the after effects, to see what the consequences are. We’ll be more careful and responsible with our actions.”