The Times West Virginian

April 14, 2013

Planned mock DUI accidents teach students valuable lesson

Times West Virginian

— Sometimes the hardest lessons in life come from experience and pain.

A simple “don’t touch the stove” to a curious child is almost an invitation. But on a second encounter “don’t touch the stove or you’ll get burned again” means much more because the child remembers the pain and the burn.

As parents and grandparents, we want our children to listen to our words and avoid any serious injury. And as parents and grandparents, we also understand that a willful child probably won’t.

But unlike little fingers that get burnt on a stove, which can heal with a little TLC and a bit of salve, there are some mistakes and accidents a child can’t recover from. There are choices our children make as they advance to the teenage years that can have lifelong consequences.

These are the kinds of bad choices with no second chances.

As the prom and graduation season approaches, we tell our children not to break the underage drinking laws. We tell them not to drink and drive. We tell them never to get into a car with someone who has been drinking alcohol or using drugs. We tell them to wear their seat belts. We tell them to make good decisions.

But in far too many cases, just one lapse in judgment, just one moment in time when all the lessons we’ve taught them escape them in a blur of peer pressure in the wee hours of the morning after too many drinks, could be the moment we lose a child to a fatal accident. It could be the moment we lose a child to the legal system. It could be the moment they lose their future and any chance of achieving the goals they’ve set for themselves.

That’s not a lesson to be learned. They never get a second chance to avoid the bad decisions they’ve made to see an alternate outcome.

We applaud Marion County Emergency Services’ recent mock DUI accident held at Fairmont Senior High School and two more scheduled for East Fairmont and North Marion high schools. The Fairmont Fire Department, the Marion County Rescue Squad and the Fairmont City Police Department participated in the re-enactment to show the students step by step what could happen if someone chooses to drink and operate a vehicle. While we hope our children never have to experience the consequences of drinking and driving firsthand, as FSHS driver’s education teacher Bob Costelac said, the simulation “is as close to reality as you could possibly get.”

The presentation showed the process from when an accident happens all the way to arresting someone for driving under the influence. Students were taken outside to a car that had been wrecked prior to the event, with three individuals in the accident. One FSHS student played the driver of the wrecked vehicle and another student played the passenger while a young boy played the driver’s little brother. In the re-enactment, the driver’s brother was killed in the accident and the passenger was seriously injured. The driver was taken for a field sobriety test and was arrested for drinking and driving.

Maddison Bowen, a junior at FSHS who played the driver in the re-enactment, said even though she knew it wasn’t real, it felt like she had just gotten in an accident.

“All the noises and what the people were saying, it was terrifying,” she said.

We hope that like Bowen, the upperclassmen who witness the accident simulation take something away. We hope that when choices are being made, the visual memory of the crashed car, the child being cut from the vehicle by emergency workers, the lights and sirens of the police car all come to mind. And we hope that makes decisions a little easier during prom and graduation season and long after.