DWI simulation warns teens

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Town Crier News Staff

The "mock wreck" held at the Buffalo Island Central campus on Friday was an eye-opener for BIC, Manila, and Riverside students attending.

The enactment was a joint effort of the state, county and local police departments, ambulance services, Gregg Funeral Home, teachers, parents, and others.

Trooper Todd Emison with the Arkansas State Police coordinated the enactment.

"We want you to take this seriously," Emison told the students. "This can happen. Try to learn from it. We are here because of you. We don't want you making a mistake."

The emphasis was on the dangers of drinking and driving.

Drama teacher Tracy Yates assisted with the costumes and directing of the students participating. Students volunteering to be part of the enactment were Maegan Cantrell, Heather Willing, Ashley Jines, Brittany Ryan, Jeff Steele, Justin Avant (the DWI driver) and his twin brother Dustin Avant (one of the two fatalities) and Katie Randall.

Emison said he had been working on this for several months and had received a lot of support in the effort.

"This scenario is based on a DWI crash, but drinking is not the only cause of wrecks," Emison pointed out.

He cautioned the young people to drive carefully, never drink and drive, always wear seat belts, do not put on make-up while driving, do not to talk on cell phones or speed.

The wreck scene started with a 911 call, going from the rescue efforts to the coroner being called.

Following the wreck scene, students assembled in the gymnasium to hear from different speakers.

Guest speakers included Dr. Kima Stewart, BIC elementary principal; Mississippi County Judge Shannon Langston; Jimmie Taylor with MADD; Manila Chief of Police Jackie Hill; Buddy Hurley with Gregg Funeral Home; and Hayley Smith, president of the BIC Student Council.

"It is prom season and we want you all safe," Dr. Stewart said. "Unfortunately, when the idea for this came to me, I was standing at a real accident scene. We want you to take this seriously and remember it before you start a car or get in a car with someone else."

Dr. Stewart read a poem, "I'm only 17."

Judge Langston also encouraged the students to pay attention and wear seat belts.

"I see young and old DUI drivers every day," she said. "A lot of people out there don't care about you. It is up to the judge to be compassionate to the victims. Driving offenses are not in juvenile court. It can cost you $35 for not wearing a seat belt. An extra 15 miles an hour over the speed limit can get you 30 days."

Craighead County Deputy Sheriff and DARE officer Terry McNatt spoke to the young people briefly asking the students to make a pledge to do the right thing.

"I've taught most of you in the DARE program," he said. "I have had to attend too many funerals. I don't want to lose any more of my students. Life is too short. I do not ever want to go to a funeral ever again of one of my students."

Jimmie Taylor, with MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving), spoke of her own personal experience losing her daughter who was hit by a drunk driver.

"On June 3, 1992, I learned what the word forever means," Taylor said. "I got the visit from the police telling me my daughter would never be back. She had been 19 a month and a half. She had started to college at Arkansas State University. Do I hate this man? No, he was only 27. He died at the age of 40 with cancer."

She cautioned the young people to not get involved in drugs and alcohol.

"I wish I could take you all to the treatment centers to visit," Taylor said. "Reality -- if you think you have an addiction, I hope you seek help. You have to admit it before you can do something about it. You will have to live with your decisions."

Chief Hill also spoke to the young people about the effects drinking and driving have had on his life.

"I lost my father when I was seven years old to a drunk driver," he said. "It is hard. I was an alcoholic at your age. It is nothing to brag about, but if it saves one of you, I will tell you. Without a father, I made it through high school."

He told of his own wreck at the age of 19.

"I was four times the limit of alcohol four hours after the wreck when I got to Memphis. Who picked me up at the wreck? It was my brother. He was working on the ambulance. They did not think I would make it. I spent three weeks in the hospital. Thankfully, I did not hit anyone. I hit a culvert at 80 miles per hour. I am not proud of the things I have done. When I left Manila I was living in Texas and I was hit by a drunk driver - a young man who was celebrating his 21st birthday. I also lost one of my brothers in a motorcycle wreck. It's not easy. I've seen enough of it. I'm your friend, but I will put you in jail for drinking and driving. If you need me, don't hesitate to give me a call."

Buddy Hurley, director of Gregg Funeral Home, talked briefly to the young people cautioning them to be careful.

"Prom season is coming up," he said. "We see it (accidents) too many times."

Hayley Smith, president of the BIC Student Council, concluded the program by thanking everyone who took part. She read a poem, "I Went to a Party."

As the students filed out of the gymnasium at the conclusion of the program, fellow student Katie Randall, who played the part of the one of the fatalities in the mock accident, was in a casket.

Riverside students made comments about the enactment:

Robin Anderson, senior: "I was okay until I saw the mothers crying. Then, I pictured my own mom at an accident scene that I was involved in. I started crying then."

Jackie Smith, senior: "It was too much death and it got to me."

Blake Hogan, sophomore: "It was good. It was a very realistic scenario. It made me think not to drink and drive."

Manila student comments:

Jenni Miller said it made her really stop and think about how she drives.

"You don't have to be drinking to have a wreck like that. I have not text messaged, while driving, since that day."

Kylle Scott: "You never know when it will be your time. Everybody sees wrecks on TV, in the media, or on the side of the road, and they think that it will never happen to them. But one bad decision can put you in the middle of the biggest tragedy of your life."

Stephanie McGuire: "The mock wreck really became meaningful to me during the skit when the mother came on the scene to see her daughter who had been killed. I could picture what it would be like for my mom if that had been me. It made me really sad for other moms who have lost children due to such careless actions. Those actions, don't just effect their lives, but everyone else around them."

Nathan Bell: "We have been taught all of our lives not to drink and drive. Listening to the poem read from the perspective of the drinking and driving victim, inspired me to take the tramatic experiences personally."

Buffalo Island Central students comments:

Brittany Ryan, participant: "It was an exhilarating experience that made me think about the consequences of drinking and driving."

Maegan Cantrell, participant: "I wanted students to really see what drinking and driving could do to you."

Heather Willing, participant: "I want to thank Todd Emison and the school for allowing us to do this. It was an experience I'll never forget, and I hope it will make a difference in someone's life."

Katie Randall, participant: "Hopefully, seeing the reactions of loved ones to this will make people think twice about touching alcohol and getting behind the wheel. Personally, even when I'm just in a car now I pay more attention to my surroundings and double check to be sure my seat belt is on. I don't want to be in a coffin again for at least 50 years or so."

BIC witnesses of the demonstration:

Cortney Thomas: "I think it was really traumatic. I think it will help a lot of kids realize how serious drinking and driving is."

Freshman Kayla Stacy: "I almost started crying. It was realistic and should actually show a lot of kids that this isn't just a joke."

"I was very proud of the students who had the difficult task of portraying the wreck victims," Tracey Yates, said. "They took their roles seriously and endured uncomfortable makeup and cold, wet weather conditions to get the message across to their peers. I sincerely hope that this exercise will help everyone make the choice not to drink and drive. Todd Emison and the other professionals who participated in this event should be commended for their level of dedication."


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