Mock crash no laughing matter

Wednesday, November 22, 2017
Chapel Hill firefighters cut the roof from a truck in order to free the driver in a mock crash held at Forrest School on Friday.
Tribune photo by Scott Pearson

“I was just texting my mom to tell her I love her.”

That’s what the driver said she was doing, before taking her eyes off of the road and hitting a truck head on.

The resulting wreck left several teenagers injured and one dead on the scene.

That was the scenario of the mock crash played out for students at Forrest School on Friday.

The demonstration, put on by the Tennessee Highway Patrol, the Chapel Hill Police Department, the Chapel Hill Fire Department, the Marshall County Sheriff’s Office, Marshall County Emergency Medical Services, and Air Evac medical transport, was only a drill, a teaching moment, but was realistic for a reason.

“When students see their friends and peers carried out in body bags, and another being handcuffed, it hits home,” said Chapel Hill Police Chief Andrew Kon. “It’s a strong message that aims to influence their driving choices, especially at such a potentially dangerous time on the road.”

The graphic reminder of the consequences of inattention or of not wearing a seat belt is aimed at driving those lessons home to the students.

Real wrecked vehicles, a realistic emergency response, and students acting out the aftermath of a fatal wreck is an effective way of reaching teenagers.

One of the Air Evac medics said that he wasn’t sure the “victim” they transported wasn’t a real patient from the way she responded.

Years ago, demonstrations such as these normally occurred during prom season and focused on driving while intoxicated.

With the advent of cell phones, GPS devices, and additional electronics to vehicles, distracted driving has become a bigger threat to drivers, especially teens.

Similar mock crash presentations are also done each year at Marshall County High School.

Texting while driving makes it 23 times more likely that the driver will be involved in a wreck, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.

According to THP statistics, distracted driving wrecks in Tennessee for 2017 were close, at the start of October, to passing the 2016 total of just over 23,000.

As of a month ago, 81 road fatalities were attributed to cell phone use or other electronic distractions.

According to AAA, 60 percent of car crashes involving teen drivers result from distracted driving.

“Just because a teen has their license does not mean they are experienced, safe drivers,” said Kon. “Parents must stay involved with a teen’s driving just as they do with their grades, athletics, and other activities.”