New Program Reaches Chatham Students Through Mock Car Crash

Last month, the students of Glenwood High School in Chatham, Illinois witnessed a surprise mock car crash a few days before their school's senior prom was to take place. The staged crash was meant to educate the youth by showing them the deadly consequences of driving drunk or driving distracted.

The "crash" included a few students acting as passengers who had been out drinking after their prom. The teen acting as the driver of the car was checking a text message on his phone when he crashed into a family's SUV.

The mock car accident resulted in two fake fatalities and two pretend victims were left with critical injuries. The production played out as a real crash would, with the arrival of a bystander, local police, ambulances, fire trucks and even a helicopter for one of the victims to receive medical attention.

All of the responding authorities followed proper procedure during the reenactment, in order to give the students a real look at one possible outcome of their actions. The leading cause of death for teens is motor vehicle accidents. The program was meant to draw students' attention to two dangerous behaviors that are common with young drivers - driving while impaired and driving while distracted.

Distracted driving is any activity that takes focus away from the road, including talking on a cell phone, texting, eating, reading or using a navigation system. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 20 percent of crashes resulting in an injury in 2009 involved distracted driving. Drivers under age 20 have the greatest percentage of distracted drivers involved in crashes. NHTSA has found that using a cell phone while driving is as dangerous as driving with a blood alcohol content above the legal limit.

One out of every three crashes is related in some way to alcohol. Alcohol use by teens results in 6,000 deaths each year.

Mary Kay Reed, R.N., M.P.A., is the project director and professor of surgery at SIU School of Medicine. "The purpose of the crash reenactment program is to show the real-life consequences of risk-taking behaviors," explained Reed, "Students are capable of making intelligent decisions."