Editor's note: This story is about a mock crash intended to teach students the dangers of drunken driving.
Editor’s note: This story is about a mock crash intended to teach students the dangers of drunken driving.
The scenario: Two cars collide — many teens are hurt, one is killed. Emergency crews race to the softball field at Bethel School, where one student is airlifted to the hospital. Another teen, suspected of drunken driving, is handcuffed.
In this case, luckily it was just a drill — a mock crash exercise intended to show local show high school students the dangers of drinking alcohol and driving.
Unfortunately, though, Pottawatomie County Sheriff's Deputy Eric Fletcher said the real life version of these events plays out every day at drunk driving incidents all across America.
“That’s a scene that plays out 33,000 times every year,” he said.
Fletcher, who partners with the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office to work traffic safety for this area, said they want to save all families from such tragedies.
The drill at Bethel School was attended by students from Bethel, Dale and Earlsboro. A similar event was held earlier this month in Asher, where students from south Pottawatomie County schools attended.
The timing isn’t a coincidence — it’s prom and graduation season, which means many teens will be celebrating. In hopes of keeping all of them safe, local emergency officials joined forces to put on the mock crash to show students what can happen.
And it was all too real.
During the mock crash in Asher, Fletcher said a nurse, who was driving by the area, saw the helicopter landing and ran over to help. Luckily, she found out it was just a drill.
Fletcher, who said Brown and Sons provided wrecked vehicles for the scenarios, said they made it look as realistic as possible and what happens at a crash scene.
In the scenario, the “at-fault” driver was arrested as REACT EMS paramedics provided care to injured teens, with firefighters at both scenes using Jaws of Life to extricate the injured parties involved.
Fletcher, who said people are 47 percent more likely to be killed when they’re not wearing a seat belt, said the drill emphasized seat belt safety as well.
Fletcher, who worked with Pottawatomie County’s school resource officers, Brent Vanlandingham and Adam Kuhlman, said the drill also brought together all of the emergency responders — firefighters, paramedics, state troopers and even crews from Medi Flight.
While working to teach students, the drill was good training for crews who worked together as a team as students intently watched the events unfold
“I’m pretty sure it made an impact,” he said.
Fletcher said he hopes the teens take the message to heart.
“The best way to avoid a DUI is not to drink and drive. The best way not to get killed is to not to drink and drive,” Fletcher said.
Parents also play a role in prevention efforts, he said, and have a lot more influence on their children than they realize.
“Parents do need to talk to their kids,” he said, adding tha teens need to know if they make a mistake, their parents or someone will come get them.
That’s why the school resource officers and many of the deputies have even given their phone numbers to students., Fletcher said, adding they would rather those students call someone to take them home before even thinking about getting behind the wheel.
“We’re serious about that,” Fletcher said.
Jan Tipton, director of training and prevention at Gateway to Prevention and Recovery in Shawnee, said underage drinking is a problem.
She said teens who have their first drink at age 14 or younger are six times more likely to develop alcohol problems than those who don’t try it until the legal drinking age.
While drinking can obviously impair a person’s ability to drive, it also is a depressant, she said, and binge drinking slows down development in the brain.
“This makes learning harder and could possibly affect how well they do in life,” she said. “The truth is, when teens drink, they do not sip a glass of wine with dinner. They binge drink. They drink for a buzz. Almost all teen drinking is binge drinking.”
And while law enforcement conducts mock drills in hopes of showing the teens the dangers, many like Tipton hope to educate about the dangers of underage drinking in many ways, and that includes educating parents.
She encourages parents to start talking to their children about alcohol by telling them to wait until they are 21 to drink.
“Keep communication channels open with the kids you love so they can share what is on their mind,” she said, encouraging parents to know their child’s friends and those friend’s parents as well.
To help educate parents, the Shawnee Youth Coalition will hold a Reality Party for Parents Tour on April 17. For 30 minutes, adults will have the opportunity to tour a live party where realistic games and “underage drinking” is taking place
Through this tour, the Shawnee Youth Coalition hopes to help parents understand the risks of underage drinking, the current and local culture of teen parties, and the social environments in which teens operate. Tipton said this tour would enable parents to communicate relevantly and meaningfully with their teens about underage drinking.
There is no fee for the tour and the event is only for adults. Tours are scheduled every 30 minutes and are limited to 10 adults. Reservations for a specific tour time are required. Parents or adults wanting to schedule a tour can register online at www.shyoco.com or call Gateway to Prevention and Recovery at 275-3391 and dial extension 101 or 102.
Watch for updates.