By Wayne Gates –
The potential consequences of distracted driving were on display for Georgetown High School students on March 23.
Students watched a video showing a group of teens in one car and two teachers in another. Both drivers were seen paying more attention to electronic devices than the road.
The video ended with the sound of a crash and the students went outside to see the results play out before their eyes.
Students with bleeding wounds lay on the pavement or staggered around, one of them sprawled on the hood of the car where she went through the windshield.
First responders and sirens were everywhere, trying to make sense of the chaos.
And finally, the sight of a well-liked teacher being zipped into a body bag.
“We have prom coming up and we wanted to send a strong message,” said event organizer Christy Lucas.
“I wanted this to be about distracted driving because I see that all the time on the road when I’m driving.”
Lucas explained the crash scenario.
“The teachers were looking at basketball scores and the teens were doing a selfie. This happened as they were passing each other, so both drivers were guilty of distracted driving.”
Lucas said that the event seemed to have a big impact at the school.
“Two people came up to me within 24 hours and said ‘you made us think.’ We will never really know if we are effective with this, but you have to think that it had an impact,” she said.
That impact was clear on three students who spoke about watching the event.
“It all seemed very real,” said junior Madison Barker.
Junior Daren Knauff said “Because I knew the people involved, it was very sad and seemed very tense to see people I know in a situation like that.”
Junior Avery Adams commented that “It made me think because I have my friends in the car all the time. It made me think about what if this happened to us.”
Following the mock crash, Georgetown Junior/Senior High School Principal Jerry Underwood, Georgetown Village Administrator Art Owens and Ohio Highway Patrol Sergeant Anthony Pearcy spoke to juniors and seniors at the school.
“My first question to them was ‘Are you willing to trade your life for a cell phone?’ That seemed to get their attention,” Owens said.
“We put one of the teachers in a body bag as a dead victim. It hit home that this can happen.”
He added that all of the time and effort of creating the mock crash was worth it.
“I do believe that the event had an impact. The kids were really shocked when they were out there watching and realized that something like this could happen to them,” said Owens.
“They see their friends laying out there covered in fake blood and it looks real. I think they were impacted by it.”
Owens said that he has had plenty of experience at crashes that were not mock at all.
“I’ve been doing this for 35 years and I can still see the faces of the victims. I never forget them. It has an impact on us for life, especially if it’s a young person. That’s even harder to take.”
Pearcy said that distracted driving has become more of a problem in recent years because of technology in and out of the car.
“In the small amount of time it takes to look at a message or send something, that’s all it takes for a child to come into the road, or for a car to drift across the center line,” Pearcy said.
“Inexperience and distraction can be a deadly combination. Our young folks use electronic devices more than some older folks because they are used to having them around.”
Pearcy said that using an electronic device while driving is a primary offense for drivers under 18, meaning that they can be pulled over for it if observed by an officer.
It is a secondary offense for adults, meaning that an additional ticket can be issued if a driver over 18 is pulled over for another reason.
Lucas said that a mock crash will be held in Georgetown every two years to keep the safety message in front of the students.
She provided the following list of participants in the event.
Drivers and passengers: Mr. Thad Wallace, Mr. Cary Gray, Preston Meranda, Landen Lucas, Piper Tomlin, Kassidy Seigla, Emmalee Rockey
Special Effects Make Up: Alecia Light, Destiny Perkins
Photos: Madison Barker
Video: Lyndsey Miller, Scott Henning
Script: GHS Student Council
Event Coordinators: Christy Lucas, Lyndsey McKibben, Art Owens, Joey Rockey, Doug Eagan, Carl Shafer Towing
Lucas expressed gratitude to Shafer for his reliability and cooperation with the event over the years.