Students watch as two cars are revealed in a cloud of smoke. The girl who caused the crash immediately calls 911 after recovering her prom date who was thrown from the car. She is told to follow through with CPR until the authorities arrive. Later her date was pronounced dead. The mock crash enactment provided students with a worst case scenario, meant to open up their eyes to how one wrong decision on the road could affect the lives of many.
On Wednesday April 24, OHS students had the opportunity to witness the mock crash assembly put on by Phoenix firefighters, police officers, and coroners. The OHS drama students also took part in the enactment of the hypothetical crash in order to portray the horrors of making a bad decision on the road.
“Well I hope they get to see something from a different perspective. Today there was a lot of different professionals out here from the firefighters, to the police officers, to the doctors, to the trauma surgeons, to the medical examiner’s office, everyone was out here,” said Kelly Liebermann, firefighter paramedic. “And I really hope they got to see things from a different perspective and really open up their eyes and see that how dangerous their choice can be and how many lives it can impact besides just their own.”
Presenting the information to students in this way allows authorities to show students what something as devastating as a car crash would be like and hopefully makes them think twice about putting either their own or someone else’s life in potential danger.
“In reality we were here 40-50 minutes to put this on; if this was really going on it would tie us up for 12 hours. So the resources are tremendous. I mean just putting one of these on, we bring a helicopter and stuff like that so it is tremendous resources, but if it saves us then from having to deal with it, it saves us from seeing someone lose their life. We’d rather be proactive rather than reactive,” said Joe Bianchi, police officer.
The main purpose in presenting the mock crash is to make a difference within the Phoenix community starting with high schools. In reality, the likelihood of impacting people becomes greater when the information is handed out, one large group at a time.
“The statistics and the data are there. That’s what started it. It’s the behavior of the people that live in our state. We want to help change their behavior and help them see things through a different perspective. Hopefully today does that,” Liebermann said. “2500 students in Arizona just got educated on impaired driving, distracted driving and not wearing a seatbelt properly. Hopefully that sticks with them and they think twice about putting a seatbelt behind their back or about drinking and getting behind the wheel.”
Bad decisions that teens make on the road, even the small ones, have the potential to alter a person’s life and in some instances end it altogether.
“Even though it’s just a small choice of picking up the phone while you’re driving, or consuming that drink while you’re driving, or like I said even taking prescription medication, that they’ll think before they do any of those things. Don’t become one of the statistics,” Bianchi said.
In addition, the mock crash promoted the work of Phoenix fire and police departments. The fact that they were a part of the assembly made all the difference.
“I think it just adds to the mock crash effect; I think it makes more of an impact. It’s good for Phoenix fire and police to get here and be a positive light in the community for the students because their job is to keep people safe out in the community that we live in. So it’s awesome that they can come and be a part of it,” said Justin McLain, Assistant Principal.
The assembly itself was lined up perfectly with the week of prom. Because prom is one night where a lot of students go out to have fun, it is important for the message of the assembly to hit home so it would hopefully make teens think before doing something they would regret.
“Prom unfortunately is one of those nights that kids often do go out and they do consume alcohol and do things they shouldn’t do. Homecoming, prom and graduation are some of the three worst things we see. So we kind of pick usually prom just because the time it falls in the year, hopefully it’s cool enough still so we can put this on and yet that they think before prom. If they are going to drink even when they’re not supposed to, that they’ll think how they’re going to get home ahead of time,” said Joe Bianchi, police officer.
Out of 2500 kids, the message the mock crash brought was bound to make an impression on someone. The most likely of those impacted would be individuals who have dealt with trauma on a personal level.
“I think by in large those that would be affected would be those who have dealt with trauma like that before at least the most. But I do think that the majority of people are going to take something from it. Now it’s probably going to be some variation based on how much that affects their overall life and I think if you’ve had trauma or something happen to you or your family you might take it to heart more but I’d say everyone is going to have some affect,” said Jonathan Smith, dual history teacher.
It took a combined effort to make something like this happen. Through collaboration of the fire department, the police department and many more, this event was made possible.
“There is a lot of resources that go into planning this event whether it is the Phoenix fire department, the Phoenix police, the towing company Western Towing, as well as St. Joseph’s Hospital. In addition to those community agencies that put on this demonstration mock crash for everybody, we have the student government, who plan and organize, we have the theater department who did a fantastic job,” said McLain. “We’re very grateful for their contribution to the event; sports medicine provided the water for students that needed it during the assembly, as well as having the Townsend family here being a supporter, that is a great addition to this assembly and making a positive impact.”
In the last part of the assembly, Spring Bemis, family of the recently passed Officer Townsend, spoke to the students about distracted driving and the way it affects families through their personal experience. To end the assembly she asked all OHS students who pledge to drive safely to stand. And in unison, the whole student body stood at her command. It was the perfect embodiment of change.
“It was really cool at the very end when all the students stood up and they stood up to represent that they are making a commitment to making good decisions on the road; that was the biggest impact. From the helicopter landing on the football field to the student standing at the very end as well as the parent notification that was a huge impact,” McLain said.
The overall goal of the event was to make an impact on students so that hopefully they think before making bad decisions on the road, and think of others while they are driving.
“Have fun, enjoy life, but do it smart. Make the proper choices and don’t put other people’s lives at risk,” said Kelly Liebermann, firefighter paramedic. “We’re going to make our choices and do the things that we do but don’t put other people’s lives at risk. Getting behind the wheel when you’re impaired and driving a thousands of pounds vehicle at 50 miles an hour is very dangerous to not just you but someone else. So think about others, be empathetic.”