They happen all year round, but spring sees them the most. A wrecked car is placed at the side of a road, or in a parking lot. Shattered glass covers the ground. A girl or boy is lying by the car, motionless, sometimes covered in fake blood. Another teen appears unconscious inside the car, a limp hand hanging out of the window. One recently took place at Sycamore High School in Illinois.
Paramedics rush to the scene and try to revive the teenagers. A police car drives up, sirens blaring, lights flashing. In Waco, Texas the program was called Shattered Dreams.
The scene is disturbing, so much so that some kids have a hard time looking at it. Their school friends are lying bleeding on the ground; an EMT dresses a wound and administers oxygen. Occasionally they zip a kid into a body bag and cart it away on a gurney.
The principal of a Burbank, California school recently announced that a student died in a drunk driving crash. It wasn’t true, but the words must have caused a shudder or two in the corridors.
Why spend time staging a mock DUI crash? Because high school students don’t think much about danger . They tend to regard themselves as invincible, and they also are more likely to drink and drive than most age groups. That’s a lethal combination. These simulations are staged to make real the idea of a crash to teens who don’t take it seriously. Humans are visual creatures; seeing bodies, twisted cars, ambulances and paramedics bring home the fact that drunk driving can lead to the ultimate tragedy.
Students at Meridian High School in Michigan know that now; so do ones at Pueblo West High in Colorado, Terryville High School in Connecticut, and Monroe High School in Washington State. As prom season turns into graduation season, schools and parents are worried about the consequences of their kids drunk driving. These mock DUI crash demonstrations are designed to make an impression in a way that lectures can’t.
Mock collisions are elaborate, expensive, and difficult to set up, but those who see them never forget the image of their friends lying in the road. And it’s an image that is much better seen in a mock demonstration than in reality. Our thanks to the schools, road safety organizations, police departments, and service personnel who make these demonstrations possible. Perhaps one day the message will finally take hold on a large scale, and real alcohol-related crashes will be rarer than the staged ones you see here.