As prom nears, Southland students host mock crash

Published 6:53 am Friday, May 7, 2010

In the wake of recent fatal car accidents involving teen drivers, Southland students staged a mock crash Thursday, days before the prom.

Sirens wailed through Adams yesterday as two city ambulances, squad cars, fire trucks and Mower County Sheriff Terese Amazi responded to the scene of the staged accident, in front of Southland’s middle and high school students. The Mayo One helicopter even touched down, so that firefighters could load one of the skit’s passengers into it, who could not have survived without the transport.

“We want to impress upon these young people the importance of practicing safe driving… wearing seat belts, no speeding, no drinking and driving,” Amazi said. “Because these are the real consequences.”

According to the National Traffic Highway Safety Administration, 70 percent of kids who have died in accidents over prom weekend weren’t wearing seat belts; and one third of teenage drunk driving accidents happen in April, May and June.

Southland’s 11-member club Students Against Drunk Driving (SADD) coordinated Thursday’s effort, writing the script, asking the Adam’s Fire Department to loan the smashed cars, and calling on all of the emergency responders for their participation.

Paramedic Tom Mork did not partake in the mock crash and emergency response, but observed it with the high school students.

“This is very good practice for them,” he said of his crew. “They did not know what to expect, they just arrived and are acting out there how they would in a real situation.”

Adams Chief of Police Mike Gehrke described the benefit of the crash simulation as three-fold.

“Young drivers are seeing real consequences; we are practicing real responses with a mock disaster; and the fire department is using their equipment,” he said.

The fire department had to use equipment to open to car doors to extricate passengers, and they also demonstrated using the Jaws of Life following the scene.

Senior SADD member Katie Barthel said organizing the mock crash was difficult, but would be worth it if it convinces on of her classmates not to drink and drive on prom night, or any night.

SADD advisor Sarah Schmit said she was proud of the group for organizing all of the responders for this event, as it was the first time a crash has been staged in Adams since 2004.

“I hope that this shows students that there are very real consequences to their choices,” she said. “This can happen to anybody, anytime, but it can often be prevented.”

Southland’s SADD has staged a number of drinking and driving awareness events this year.

Schmit said the students held a surprise “Seatbelts and Mug Shots” check earlier this year, where students shocked their classmates, teachers and parents by checking whether they were belted in when arriving to or leaving school.

Those who were not wearing seat belts were photographed, and their portraits were tacked to a “Wall of Shame” in the school.

The group also held a “Grim Reaper Day,” where they wore black and white face paint, and put tombstones on their lockers, to symbolize the lives lost to drunk driving.

At Austin High School Thursday The Safe Communities Coalition sponsored an all-school assembly where state trooper Todd Zynda facilitated a presentation on seat belt use and distracted driving.